Soaring Ateneo Blue Eagles peak with 4-peat

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Greatness beckoned and Ateneo responded one more time.

Sharp and determined, the Blue Eagles overwhelmed the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 82-69, Saturday to complete a sweep and capture a historic fourth straight UAAP men’s basketball championship.

“We don’t know how long it’s going to last so we want to take advantage of it while we have the talent,” said Ateneo coach Norman Black. “We were hoping for a good year and we got one.”

Talent did abound for the Eagles this season with the phenomenal rookie duo of Greg Slaughter and Kiefer Ravena teaming up with veterans led by Nico Salva, Kirk Long and Emman Monfort.

Delivering again when it mattered, the Eagles took the fire out of the Tamaraws in the second half and wrapped up the best-of-three series in dominant fashion in front of a jam-packed crowd of 18,423 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

MVP

Salva captured the Most Valuable Player award of the Finals after averaging 19.5 points—built on a remarkable 78 percent shooting clip—and 5.5 rebounds per game.

Coming off a perfect Game 1 outing, Salva shone anew with 15 markers, including four straight points that got the Eagles rolling at the start of the second half.

“The previous three years, we worked hard for those championships,” said Salva, the 6-foot-4 forward who figured in all four of Ateneo’s title romp. “This is no different. We worked hard every day. We worked the hardest that’s why we’re here.”

Salva—who knocked in all of his attempts for a game-high 24 points in the Eagles’ 82-64 Game 1 win—also grabbed five rebounds, dished out a couple of assists and had a steal in the title clincher.

“He has a knack for being able to just surrender to the moment when it’s crucial, when it’s championship time. He has a tendency to just deliver,” Black said of Salva.

Elite club

The victory propelled the Eagles to an elite club of teams with four consecutive titles, which includes archrival La Salle (1998-2001), University of Santo Tomas (1993-1996) and league record-holder University of the East (1965-1971).

“To put up a string of championship where you can really convince the same guys to continue to give their best every game, every year that’s what it really comes down to,” said Black.

Ravena—who copped the Rookie of the Year plum and was also named to the Mythical Team—delivered with a team-high 18 points, six rebounds and a pair of assists.

“I just want to end it on a good note,” said the son of former Philippine Basketball Association player Bong Ravena. “We wanted to bring out the best game of our lives. Everybody wanted to win.”

Slaughter, the tallest player currently in the league at 7 feet, again provided the intimidating presence at the paint to finish with 11 points, six rebounds two assists and a block.

“I couldn’t even process it all, I’m just so happy,” said Slaughter, the Filipino-American who traces his roots in Cebu. “They’ve been waiting for this. I’m just happy to get into this program. They took me with open arms, it worked out and here we are with a four-peat.”

It wasn’t just the team stars who clicked as the bench also stepped up in key stretches that helped the Eagles go up by as many as 19 points, 74-55, going into the final four minutes.

Juami Tiongson led the Ateneo bench’s strong performance with 11 points and two rebounds in just 10 minutes of action.

For FEU, it was a repeat of last year’s heartbreak where the Eagles also swept the Tamaraws in the best-of-three title series.

Holding back

“They just played well,” FEU coach Bert Flores said succinctly of the champion squad that had their numbers all season.

Aldrech Ramos, a Mythical Team member this season, paced the Tamaraws with a game-high 20 points and 13 rebounds.

Last year’s MVP, RR Garcia, also had 16 points for the Tamaraws, who dropped all four meetings against the Eagles this season.

But it was a finale where the Eagles even held back, according to Black, as the Tamaraws even led at the half at 36-35.

“From a coaching standpoint, I was really trying to hold back on some things, particularly on  our pick-and-roll plays,” said Black, who joined La Salle’s Franz Pumaren, UST’s Aric del Rosario and UE’s Baby Dalupan on the list of league coaches with multiple titles.

“The reason for that is I don’t want them (Tamaraws) to read it and adjust at halftime. It really helped us out a little bit in the second half, because we were able to get the ball down back in the post area.”

The Eagles came out charging with a 14-2 run to take the lead, 49-38, late in the third period.

Tightening up defensively, the Eagles held on to the double-digit advantage as Ravena, Monfort, Slaughter and Salva also teamed up in another fourth-quarter salvo that got them up by as many as 76-55.

Combination

“It’s just a combination of having good, young players and good veterans. Guys who have the championship experience and want to win, that’s the most important thing,” said Black.

“We talked about it all the time that if you’re at this level, you have to try to strive for something. For us, we just want to be known as the best college team in the country.”

The scores:

ATENEO 82—Ravena 18, Salva 15, Slaughter 11, Tiongson 11, Monfort 9, Gonzaga 6, Long 5, Chua 5, Erram 2, Pessumal 0, Sumalinog 0, Golla 0, Austria 0.

FEU 69—Ramos 20, Garcia 16, Tolomia 7, Romeo 7, Escoto 4, Bringas 4, Exciminiano 4, Foronda 3, Cruz 2, Noundou 2, Pogoy 0, Mendoza 0, Knuttel 0.

Quarters: 23-18, 35-36, 57-45, 82-69

With Mark Giongco and Celest Flores, INQUIRER.net

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XJONLBTZROWZAQYK52JMQNSXL4 Datu Puti

    Congratulation to the Blue Eagles as the formidable college basketball team in the 21st century. I hope you can also surpass the championship record made by the UE Red Warriors in the 1960’s up to 70’s were they got seven straight championship during the era of Robert Jaworski and coach Boby Dalupan.      

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GDLJBVQKYUSWJAK6ICQITGFTUU Toni

    Congratulations to Ateneo for the 4-peat!

    I just wish the University will support other sports as much as they do basketball. Unlike bb players who get sports scholarship and salaries, other sports players get nothing i.e. they even have to travel on their own, fork their own money for taxi fare,  to get to the game venue. Sad isn’t it?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QCOLQJIXUNGVHC5QZ6D7CAGB2E mndericho

      If you commercialize the game.  Start “boosting” university students and giving them perks such as salary, then you will ruin the game.  You will have players playing for money and not for the love of the game.  You will get big money schools throwing out big money to the best players.  At the University level, this should never happen.  Once they go professional, it’s fair game.

      This is why any type of reward to University athletes is forbidden in the United States.  You open Pandora’s box.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GDLJBVQKYUSWJAK6ICQITGFTUU Toni

        mndericho – seems you don’t know what’s going on in college basketball. Pandora’s box has long been opened and this is not US.There is always a big difference between what should be and what really is.
        It is common knowledge in Ateneo that these BB players don’t just get perks but a lot of perks.

        Besides my point is not this but there should be equity in the support given to different sports.

  • Anonymous

    Great job Ateneo for the outstanding 4-peat!  Congrats and thanks to the players and Coach Black for a job well done!!  One Big Fight!!!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2S5HP3JRDRPKQSOLA7IIOWPEQA marvin

    Sayang si Tallo, umalis pa kasi sa Ateneo eh, sana nagsecelebrate ka na rin ngaun at nakipagcompete sa elite university teams sa bansa.

    • Anonymous

      Pakialamero kasi ang tatay. Gusto niya sikat kaaagad ang anak.

  • Anonymous

    One of the biggest factors that always propel the Eagles to the UAAP finals is the solid support of its alumni. After each game, you can see men in their sixities donning the blue and white jacket, drinking and dining at adjacent restos around the Big Dome not only with their batchmates but  with their own families. The gathering is like a general re-union of the Ateneo High School. No other school, save perhaps for La Salle Greenhills, can match such total school loyalty and support. The Eagles do deserve the 4-peat feat. ONE BIG FIGHT!

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