Ateneo finally saw an end to its nightmarish start.
JP Erram came out big in the second half as the Blue Eagles snapped out of their three-game winless spell with a commanding 71-59 victory over the Adamson Falcons in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament yesterday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“More than anything else, this is a relief because if you keep on losing, it’s going to challenge your confidence,” Ateneo coach Bo Perasol said after the Blue Eagles, champions of the last five seasons, picked up their first win after an unexpected 0-3 start.
There’s no third-quarter collapse for the Eagles this time. Instead, they turned it into a decisive period where they erected their first double-digit lead, 57-47.
Jumai Tiongson topscored for the Eagles with 15 and Erram dropped 10 of his 12 points in the third quarter aside from grabbing 12 rebounds.
Ryan Buenafe also finished an assist-shy of a triple-double. He also had 12 boards and 11 points.
Earlier, National University regained its bearing in the final period and rolled to a 74-60 triumph over University of the Philippines for a share of second with idle University of Santo Tomas at 3-1.
Ray Parks fired 18 points on top of nine rebounds and six assists while Emmanuel Mbe, Gelo Alolino and Troy Rosario also came through in the closing minutes as NU built a 19-point advantage, 71-52, after the Maroons had threatened within three, 49-46.
Adamson fell to fourth at 2-2, while UP skidded to its fourth straight loss.
The Blue Eagles shaved their heads as a sign of unity days after taking consecutive losses from NU, Far Eastern University and La Salle pushed them to their worst start in 16 years.
“The criticisms that I received the past weeks were more than what I received in my entire career as a PBA coach,” said Perasol. “So imagine how relieved I am today. But we’ll keep on going. As long as I can rely on the 100 percent effort of my players, I can take that any time.”
Crack Ateneo guard Kiefer Ravena suited up again after sitting out the last two games due to a sprained ankle but was far from his explosive form. He finished with just four points on a 1-of-5 shooting clip in 11 minutes of action.
But it hardly mattered as the Eagles kept the Falcons from coming no closer than eight points in the final quarter, 59-51. They even outrebounded the much taller Adamson squad, 49-37.
“The problem in the last three games was we were waiting for a savior every time we’re behind,” said Perasol. “But Kiefer wasn’t there, so thankfully, we were able to overcome that in our fourth game.”
“I thought we did a good job in our defense in the fourth, and at the same time, our offense clicked,” said NU coach Eric Altmirano.
Mbe had a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds, while third-year point guard Alolino added 12 points and seven assists for the Bulldogs.
Rosario, who finished with 10 points, also drilled six straight in an 8-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter that sparked the Bulldogs’ breakaway.
NU 74—Parks 18, Mbe 15, Alolino 12, Rosario 10, Javillonar 9, Roño 3, Alejandro 3, Villamor 2. Khobuntin 2, Porter 0, De Guzamn 0.
UP 60—Marata 14, Lao 11, Soyud 10, Ball 8, Gallarza 5, Pascual 3, Gingerich 3, Asilum 3, Wong 2, Ligad 1, Suarez 0, Paras 0, Desiderio 0, Amar 0.
Quarters: 21-13, 39-29, 53-47, 74-60
ATENEO 71—Tiongson 15, Erram 12, Buenafe 11, Newsome 10, Golla 6, Ravena 4, Pessumal 3, Tolentino 2, Lim 2, Elorde 2, Enriquez 0.
ADAMSON 59—Cruz 21, Cabrera 14, Brondial 8, Sewa 4, Iñigo 3, Agustin 3, Rios 2, Monteclaro 2, Abrigo 2, Trollano 0, Petilos 0, Julkipli 0.
Quarters: 13-16, 32-28, 57-47, 71-59