Eagles, Tigers arrange UAAP title showdownBy Jasmine W. Payo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Ateneo needed a huge game from Kiefer Ravena while University of Santo Tomas leaned on an unlikely hero as the Blue Eagles and the Growling Tigers pulled off separate semifinal thrillers yesterday and arranged a UAAP championship showdown next week.
Ravena took charge in the final quarter, pulling Ateneo out of an 11-point hole in the last nine minutes as the Eagles downed a gutsy La Salle side, 66-63, to secure a return trip to the title round of the men’s basketball tournament at the jampacked Araneta Coliseum.
UST earlier clinched the first title slot as Kevin Ferrer got off to a perfect start to power the Tigers to a 63-57 triumph over National University.
Ferrer buried a game-high 17 points, 15 in the first half where he nailed all his shots from three-point range (3-of-3) and from the two-point field (3-of-3).
The Eagles, who are bidding for a fifth straight crown, clash with the Tigers in Game 1 of the best-of-three championship at 3:30 p.m. at MOA Arena this Saturday.
“He just took over the game, that’s what great players do,” Ateneo coach Norman Black said of Ravena, who shot 12 straight points in one stretch of the final period.
Ravena finished with a career-high 28 points—including 16 in the last nine minutes—and even flirted with a triple-double with 12 rebounds and seven assists.
“La Salle gave us a great fight,” Ravena said after the Eagles disposed their fierce rival. “It’s the Final Four so we just got to suck it up and go the extra mile.”
Ravena pushed the Blue Eagles within a basket, 53-55, after the top seeds trailed by as many as 11 points, 38-49, early in the fourth quarter.
A Juami Tiongson basket off a Ravena assist tied the game at 55, before four straight points from Ravena gave the Blue Eagles the lead, 59-55.
Ravena again dished out key assists in Ateneo’s next two plays where a Greg Slaughter bucket and a Ryan Buenafe triple cushioned the Eagles’ edge, 64-62.
La Salle’s Jeron Teng missed the chance to tie the game after splitting his free throws, 64-63, then later blew another opportunity when the topnotch
rookie turned the ball over with just 3.4 seconds left.
Buenafe, who chipped in 10 points and seven boards, nailed two free throws in the dwindling seconds for the final tally.
Both games drew a combined crowd total of 30,220, including an overflow of 18,461 in
the blockbuster Ateneo-La Salle duel.
UST coach Pido Jarencio, meanwhile, said he wasn’t even expecting Ferrer to play 100 percent following the sophomore forward’s bout with illness early this week.
“I asked him if he’s ready and he said yes,” Jarencio said of Ferrer, who also had the tough job of defending NU star Ray Parks.
After clinching his his second straight Most Valuable Player award, Parks was held to one of his lowest scoring outputs this season of 12 markers.
Karim Abdul had 15 points and eight rebounds for the Tigers, who also held off the Bulldogs’ late run that trimmed their 59-50 advantage to just a bucket, 59-57, with less than three minutes left.
Aljon Mariano added 14 points, including a crucial layup that snapped the Bulldogs’ 7-0 run and padded the Tigers’ lead, 61-57, with 1:53 minutes remaining. He also had seven rebounds and four assists.
“I told them it’s all about desire,” said Jarencio after steering the Tigers back to the title round since their championship romp in 2006. “The team’s heart was there because NU also really played well.”
“Our immaturity showed in the last few minutes,” said NU coach Eric Altmarino as his Bulldogs went scoreless in the last two minutes.
“We should have been composed, but we forced our shots in the end. Again, that’s part of our learning. We move on, learn from our mistakes and look forward to next year.”
The Bulldogs, who advanced to the Final Four for the first time in 11 years, even led late in the third quarter, 49-45, after an 11-2 spurt.
But the Tigers responded with a run of their own, 11-1, to close out the period back on top at 56-50.
“I told them nothing will come easy,” said Jarencio. “If they really want it, they should work hard for it and shouldn’t quit.”
Jeoff Javillonar paced the Bulldogs with 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Parks also had a double-double of 12 markers and 10 boards.
UST 63—Ferrer 17, Abdul 15,
Mariano 14, Fortuna 8, Teng 6, Vigil 3, Pe 0, Lo 0, Bautista 0, Afuang 0.
NU 57—Javillonar 15, Parks 12, Alolino 8, Villamor 6, Betayene 5, Mbe 4, Khobuntin 3, Roño 2, De Guzman 2, Singh 0, Neypes 0, Labing-isa 0.
Quarters: 17-18, 38-34, 56-50, 63-57.
ATENEO 66—Ravena 28, Salva 12, Buenafe 10, Tiongson 5, Slaughter 4, Chua 4, Sumalinog 3, Pessumal 0, Gonzaga 0, Golla 0, Elorde 0.
LA SALLE 63—Andrada 17, Vosotros 14, Teng 12, N. Torres 6, T. Torres 5, Tampus 4, Van Opstal 3, Mendoza 2, Webb 0, Revilla 0.
Quarters: 14-12, 31-26, 38-47, 66-63.