Ateneo clinches fourth straight title
MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo’s quest for a historic fourth straight title ended Saturday as the Blue Eagles clinched the 74th UAAP seniors’ basketball championship with another masterful sweep of Far Eastern University.
And just like in the first game, the Blue Eagles went on a second half surge to breeze through the Tamaraws anew, 82-69, in game two Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We did a good job in the second half in moving the basketball,” said Ateneo coach Norman Black, who joined Baby Dalupan, Aric del Rosario and Franz Pumaren in the echelon of coaches able to steer a team to at least four straight titles.
Ateneo, the first team in a decade to achieve a coveted “four-peat,” drew stellar performances from Nico Salva, Greg Slaughter and this season’s Rookie of the Year Kiefer Ravena.
Ravena, who also led Ateneo to three titles in the juniors division, blazed with 18 points while Salva, who was a part of Ateneo’s last three titles, added 15 points.
Salva, who bagged the Finals MVP plum, added 15 points on top of five rebounds while Slaughter had a silent but effective 11-point, six-rebound night.
“These guys really wanted to win, for us we just want to be the best college team in the country,” added Black.
Ateneo outscored FEU, 22-9 in the pivotal third period after trailing by one, 35-36 at the intermission.
“Knowing that we can end it today, that pumped us up,” said the five-foot-11 Ravena.
And it wasn’t just the starters who delivered for the Blue Eagles.
The Ateneo bench sustained the energy more than its total 25 points combined to give the Eagles that spark they needed to pull away.
Juami Tiongson scored 11 points off the bench.
“The bench mob,” said Ravena. “They are unpredictable and look what they did today to help us.”
Ateneo, which also swept FEU in last year’s finals, demolished the Tamaraws, 82-64, in game one last week.
With most of its key cogs Ravena, Slaughter and Salva in the fold, Ateneo is still expected to contend in the years to come.
Kirk Long, Emman Monfort and Bacon Austria’s services will be missed next year as all three have played out their final game.
Only Aldrech Ramos and RR Garcia came through with big numbers for FE.
Ramos, who also played his last game as a Tamaraw, notched a double-double of 20 points and 13 rebounds while Garcia finished with 16 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Other FEU players graduating are Chris Exciminiano, JR Cawaling, and Cameroonian Pippo Noundou.