Ateneo Blue Eagles def. UST Growling Tigers, 91-77
Thirdy Ravena (32 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 14/18 FG, 2/3 3-PT FG)
A dazzling performance for the reigning back-to-back UAAP Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP). Ravena was an absolute match-up problem for the Growling Tigers as he dominated whoever was in front of him. He varied his shot selection from time to time (post-ups, mid range jumpers, slashes, 3-pt shot) and always found the perfect counter to the UST defense. The only worry for Ravena coming into the second game is probably the (minor) ankle injury that he sustained late in the fourth quarter – which effectively ended his Game 1.
Angelo Kouame (18 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 8/15 FG)
Last year’s Rookie of the Year (ROY) had a solid outing against UST and formed a superb one-two punch with Ravena. Kouame also outplayed his counterpart, Soulemane Chabi Yo – who was recently named the MVP of Season 82. The Ivorian had a commanding presence in the shaded area as he routinely converted inside baskets, gobbled up the boards (had nine in the first half), and altered numerous shot attempts.
SJ Belangel (12 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 4/8 3-PT FG)
The scoring outburst of Belangel off the bench was a pleasant bonus for the Katipunan-based squad as they needed someone from the backcourt to alleviate the offensive load carried by Ravena and Kouame. The former Blue Eaglet hit three timely three-point shots in the second canto to extinguish the hopes of UST to snatch the lead away from Ateneo after staging a massive run led by super rookie Mark Nonoy.
Mark Nonoy (26 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 9/18 FG, 7/14 3-PT FG)
Wow. What a scintillating display from this season’s ROY. Just like Belangel, Nonoy came off the bench and provided the crucial spark that kept the Growling Tigers afloat in the opening 20 minutes of the match (let’s all forget the silly unsportsmanlike foul on Gian Mamuyac that he committed at the 2:05 mark of the first quarter and focus on the positives). The speedy freshman was untouchable all throughout the game as he left his defenders in the dust every time he drove towards the basket. Nonoy amazingly played beyond his age and embodied former UST head coach Pido Jarencio’s “puso, pride, palaban” mantra. Created a one-man mayhem in his 27:55 minutes of playtime.
- After sweeping the elimination round, the Blue Eagles shattered the usual Final Four set-up and created a grueling step-ladder format for the three schools fighting for the last slot in the championship stage. This incentive gave the two-time defending champions a long break which led to nervous thoughts of them being “rusty” come the Finals… but again, this is not an ordinary team. The Ateneans blitzed the Growling Tigers in the opening frame (poured in 32 points) and showed zero signs of rustiness. They opened the game with an 8-0 run and never looked back.
- UST probably could’ve made this a much closer contest only if they avoided that awful start to the game. The Growling Tigers committed four turnovers in their first seven possessions – a huge factor in Ateneo’s hot run in the first quarter (Ateneo eventually finished with 27 points off turnovers). Despite this, they were able to recover and find some holes in the Blue Eagles’ suffocating defense.
- Speaking of defense, the 91 points that UST leaked to the Ateneans was a single point short of their season high (gave up 92 against the DLSU Green Archers in the second round of eliminations). The Growling Tigers were easily broken down by the offense of Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin and they clearly had no answer to the rampaging Ravena.
- The Growling Tigers were +8 in the bench points category against the Blue Eagles (36 to 28), but if you take away the Nonoy’s 26 markers, that team stat will instantly drop-off to 10. The other reserve players will need to step-up as starters Renzo Subido, Cj Cansino, and Ira Bataller only combined for 14 points.
- Aside from Nonoy and Brent Paraiso (who knocked-down 11 three-pointers combined), the Blue Eagles were able to limit the rest of the Growling Tigers’ to only three conversions (Subido had two, while Sherwin Concepcion made one) beyond the arc. They were rotating alertly on defense and contesting every outside shot. It was a well-executed defensive scheme by Ateneo as they knew that their opponents will live and die with the three-point shot.
- Side note: The Blue Eagles can extend their current winning streak to 26 games (dating back to the previous campaign) and achieve legendary status by becoming the first team in the Final Four era to sweep an entire season if they beat the UST Growling Tigers on Wednesday, November 20, at 4pm, in the Mall of Asia Arena.