MANILA, Philippines — Ateneo, once again, leaned on Kiefer Ravena in crunch time. And once again, he delivered.
Ateneo defeated University of Santo Tomas, 70-69, Thursday on a breakaway layup by Ravena to extend the Philippine Collegiate Champions League finals series to a winner-take-all game three.
Ravena was left all alone for the game-winner with 11 seconds left on the clock, giving the Blue Eagles a chance to reassert their mastery of the Growling Tigers in the next game.
The UAAP champion pounced on that split second confusion by UST, which was anticipating a 24-second shotclock violation after Kevin Ferrer’s shot didn’t hit the rim.
“Kiefer (Ravena) is a winner, he doesn’t like losing. It’s in his character,” said assistant coach Gabby Severino, who’s still calling the shots for Ateneo.
Ravena finished with 21 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal for Ateneo.
The Blue Eagles merely finished what they started — but first needed to recover from the Growling Tigers blistering comeback.
After being ahead by as much as 28-11 in the first quarter, Ateneo slowly saw its lead being chipped away and got a lucky break when Karim Abdul fouled out midway in the fourth quarter.
“The defense by UST in the second half was tighter. They clogged up, since we shot six treys (in the first half),” said Severino. “(Abdul’s fouling out) was big,”
The Blue Eagles only regained their lead on three straight freethrows from Nico Salva and Greg Slaughter with 4:45 left.
But a 5-0 swing gave UST back the lead anew — after it first got a taste of it early in the quarter — and just needed to clamp down on defense in the final minute to seal the win.
But a lapse in the end cost them the chance to bring home their first PCCL title.
Graduating guard Jeric Fortuna, who will be the focus of the defense next game, had 18 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Jeric Teng added 12 points, half of which came in the fourth to bring the Growling Tigers back to life and in the lead, 59-57.
Game three is set more than a week from now, December 7, which is looking like a fitting ending to a budding rivalry between Ateneo and UST.