Eagles topple Maroons
Ateneo guard Tyler Tio wasted little time showing the skills that made him a blue-chip recruit a year ago, while the rest of the Blue Eagles once again stamped their class against another contender.
With Tio delivering one of the finest debuts in recent memory, the Eagles rolled past the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, 92-71, last Wednesday to grab the early lead in the UAAP Season 80 basketball tournament at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Tio, who sat out last season after he was unable to get a Philippine passport in time for the tournament, finished with 14 points in just 11 minutes, going 6-for-6 from the field as the Eagles brandished the depth of their squad to seize the early lead in the tournament.
Thirdy Ravena once again led the Eagles with 16 points and six rebounds, while Chiz Ike followed up his strong opening-day performance with a nine-point, seven-rebound haul for the Eagles. Aaron Black also had a solid game of nine points and 10 boards.
“Hats off to the guys who stepped up for us,” said Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga. “One of the things that coach Tab (Baldwin) said at halftime was we needed to play better defense and take care of the ball and we saw some improvement in the second half.”
The Eagles extended a 44-36 halftime lead to 11 points in the third period, before enjoying a 24-point buffer late in the game as Tio, who missed the opening-day win over Adamson due to an ankle injury, caught fire with 10 of his output in the final period.
“We’re just happy for Tyler because he’s been working hard since last season,” said Ravena. “We always knew he can contribute.”
“I was just doing my job for the team,” said Tio, a standout from Xavier High School, who initially only had Canadian citizenship before applying for a Philippine passport last year.
Three days after hitting the triple that lifted the Maroons to a 74-73 win over University of Santo Tomas, Paul Desiderio was held to just nine points on 4-of-18 shooting as he struggled to find his rhythm. But rookie Juan Gomez De Liano got going early and finished with 16 points for the Maroons, who fell to a tie with Far Eastern U at 1-1.
The Tamaraws turned back University of the East, 90-83, earlier after another strong game from Ron Dennison, who had 16 points. Prince Orizu also finished with a double-double of 15 points and 16 rebounds aside from anchoring FEU’s interior defense.
“It always gives you satisfaction when you win, especially since it’s our first of the season, and my first one as the coach,” said FEU coach Olsen Racela. “But we’re still far from what we want to be. We still have a lot of things to do and take care of.”
Arespacochaga, meanwhile, downplayed the back-to-back 20-point victories to start the season, saying the Eagles still have their work cut out for them if they want to reach the finals again.
“Our mentality and philosophy is ‘next game’ and it might have been a 20-point win for us, but we want to keep on improving,” he said. “We don’t want to look at that 20-point win and get big-headed. It doesn’t show how hard we had to fight, especially defensively against all their (UP’s) good guards.”
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