Kiefer Ravena had to bleed for every point as the Tigers were quick to double him every time he touched the ball. He was held to six points in the first half but he managed to dish four dimes, showcasing his ability to scan the floor and immediately locate an open man. On the flip side, Ateneo limited Karim Abdul and Ed Daquioag to just two points each. Ponso Gotladera, in particular, did a great job of stopping Abdul on his tracks.
Third quarter came and the Blue Eagles accelerated and left UST in the dust. Kiefer outsmarted his defenders with his impossible moves. Von Pessumal launched his three-point missiles. Matt Nieto had been feeling it since the first frame. Aaron Black made his daddy proud as he blocked a shot and scored on a fastbreak.
Then all of a sudden, they ran out of gas, and Kevin Ferrer decided he’s had enough.
Ferrer drained crucial outside shots in their rally – both open and wildly contested – finishing with 27 points (11 in the 4th) and nine rebounds. Abdul and Daquioag, who combined for 16 points and 20 rebounds, finally showed up during crunch time. Mario Bonleon and Sheak Sheriff also helped in putting some icing on their sweet 32-6 run in the final 12 minutes.
Pessumal topscored again for Ateneo with 19 points, while Ravena contributed 13 points on 18 shots, nine rebounds, and six assists.
It went downhill for Ateneo towards the end of the pivotal third quarter when main offensive weapons Kiefer and Von were out of the court at the same time. The five players off the bench (Pingoy-Black-Capacio–Apacible–Ikeh) could not hold the fort as they could not get any offense going and they allowed the Tigers to trim the lead down.
I said in my pregame that Ateneo’s bench production and offensive rebounding will be keys to this game. Their second and third units fell short, producing only 10 points after averaging 39.7 in their previous three wins. And although the Eagles remained impressive on the offensive glass, mostly thanks to Gotladera, they only converted five markers off second opportunities compared to UST’s 13.
The Blue Eagles continue to struggle with their shots. They’re currently the worst team (yes, even worse than Adamson) in terms of true shooting at 42.7 percent. In the payoff period of this game, they were 1/17 from the field and 4/8 from the line. Consecutive triple attempts by Von and Kiefer down the stretch all rimmed out and ruined any chances of salvaging the win that slipped through their fingers.
Ateneo needs to recover from this major collapse fast as they face a hungry UP Fighting Maroons squad on Wednesday.