Ateneo Blue Eagles def. UP Fighting Maroons 83-66
Thirdy Ravena (21 points, 41% FG%, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks and +22)
Thirdy was ready for UP. Playing brilliant on both ends, Ravena’s defensive coverage on Paul Desiderio became the cornerstone of the Ateneo defense. With the Desiderio option taken out, UP helplessly forced it to Akhuetie or hope that Javier Gomez De Liano can create late in the shot clock. Ravena’s four-point barrage at the start of the final quarter put an end to the UP rally while his monster rejection near end-game pricked all hopes of a UP win.
Tyler Tio (12 points, 56% FG%, 5 assists, +19)
When Matt Nieto went down, next man up was not exactly a player who scored 13 points in all first round. But Tyler Tio proved to be a reliable back-up for Matt scoring from the outside and fearless when driving strong to the cup. Tio also did an excellent job on UP’s Jun Manzo often frustrating him to the point of disarray.
Angelo Kouame (9 points, 16 monster rebounds and +10)
Beyond the “just” nine points of Kouame, his value defensively is beyond measure. As if the stingy perimeter coverage was not enough, once Juan Gomez De Liano or Paul Desiderio found their way into the Ateneo defense, Kouame’s presence would force them to kick the ball out for a low percentage long-ball option. A force defensively and an offensive weapon and forcing UP to a one-and-done possession.
- Key quarters for the Blue Eagles were the second and third quarters. From a sluggish 31% shooting in the first quarter and an over reliance on long bombs, Ateneo flipped the switch and turned it on defensively denying UP’s prime scoring option, Paul Desiderio and denying any passing lanes to Bright Akhuetie turned a deadlock at 27-all to a 35-29 halftime lead. Desiderio fired blanks all second quarter.
- Coach Tab Baldwin has been a master of denying the opponents to do what they want to do. And UP got a huge taste of that in the 3rd quarter. Only up by 6, the blue boys pumped up the lead to 41-29 in just 60 seconds. They key was DENIAL. Desiderio cannot find open space as the Katipunan defense was ready for those back-cuts and double-screen plays. And while the Fighting Maroons were feeding off broken plays just to have a decent attempt, Ateneo was playing smart using very fluid ball motion. The result, Ateneo canned 7-of-7 uncontested shots while the Maroons had to fight through the teeth of the defense every possession and ended the game with ZERO open attempts.
- If there is one thing Ateneo needs to sharpen on would be their press-break. Of course, the absence of Matt Nieto will be lethal to any line-up, but not a team with an army of ball carriers. Adamson did that in their first-round win in the battle of the birds, and UP lifted a page on that 1-2-1 full-court trapping press that made the game interesting for a while in the 3rd canto when UP took the lead.
- Juan Gomez De Liano’s individual showcase can only take UP so far. Ateneo was ready for Juan GDL and limited the usually prolific scorer to two points in the first quarter and it would take three more quarters before he scored another three. With the Ateneo defense fighting off those high post picks, it became a nightmare for the former ROY to get any momentum.
- There has to be something more to Bright Akhuetie’s bully-ball. Sure, Bright top-scored with 20-points, but these were mostly from second-chance points and endless banging then heaving a twinner from point-blank range. Turning the ball over 5 times is also not a comforting stat.