Ateneo edges UST in UAAP 75 classic, snares twice-to-beat advantage in semisBy Celest R. Flores
MANILA, Philippines — Ateneo edged University of Santo Tomas, 68-66, to snare the twice-to-beat incentive in another classic clash Saturday in the 75th UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
An and-one opportunity by Ryan Buenafe, which was ruled counted after Karim Abdul’s goal tending violation, with 5.1 seconds left gave the Blue Eagles the final advantage and the lock at the top.
“Our goal all season was to make it to the top two,” said head coach Norman Black, who went livid a couple of times over the calls or the lack thereof by the referees.
Black admitted though that the play which sealed their 12th victory was actually designed for Ravena but ended up with just-as-capable Buenafe.
Ravena finished with 18 points, Buenafe with 11 points but it was Juami Tiongson who knocked down the pivotal shots in the third quarter and in clutch.
Tiongson, who went on a personal 7-0 blitz, gave the Blue Eagles a 50-41 lead at the latter part of the third, adding 13 points and three rebounds and assists.
“Juami [Tiongson] was a pleasant surprise for us,” said Black, as he asked Tiongson to help take some pressure of Ravena in the fourth quarter.
Tiongson turned Ravena’s miss from the corner into gold with a swish from mid-range, giving Ateneo the lead anew, 65-64, with 25 seconds left.
Karim Abdul nailed a jumper over the outstretched arms of Greg Slaughter swinging the lead back to UST, but made a grave mistake when he tried to swat Buenafe’s lay-up, which was about to go down the hoop.
Aljon Mariano, who had a subpar game with only nine markers, had a chance to win the game for the Growling Tigers but misfired on a trey as the time expired.
The Growling Tigers, though, showcased the resiliency which carried them all season long, as it patienly trimmed down a 43-56 deficit at the start of the fourth and tied the game at 61 with 2:38 left.
But UST missed countless chances to score on drives and failed to take advantage of Ateneo’s early penalty in the fourth.
Jeric Teng heated up early, pouring eight points in the first quarter but only managing four more points in the ensuing frames.
UST, which slid to third place with a 9-4 record, held the advantage throughout the first half, registering 14 steals as the Tigers made Ateneo pay for its errant passing.
Abdul led all scorers with 22 points, hauled down 12 rebounds, and notched an assist and three steals.