Ravena, Nieto push Ateneo past UP in Game 1 of UAAP Finals
Defending champion Ateneo had no qualms in spoiling University of the Philippines’ much-awaited return to the championship round after hammering out an 88-79 win in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball Finals Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.
The Blue Eagles moved a victory away from their second straight title and 10th overall as they showed their championship class against the Fighting Maroons, who are in their first finals appearance since 1986.
Thirdy Ravena flirted with a triple-double, collecting 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists with two steals and two blocks to boot while Matt Nieto recorded a career-high 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field on top of three steals.
Ateneo found a hard time shaking off UP for much of the game until Nieto decided that the Fighting Maroons have had enough.
Nieto had seven points in the Blue Eagles’ 14-2 run in the final five minutes of the game to build an 87-73 lead.
And a fitting end to that scoring spurt was Nieto’s booming three with 2:07 left to play in the game.
Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga admitted that the team got a bit emotional in the game’s early going but eventually calmed down in the latter part that helped them go on that late scoring spurt.
“We got emotional because we were not playing according to how we want to play on the defensive and offensive ends and we made mistakes,” said Arespacochaga. “But we locked in because when you get too emotional it could change your momentum.”
“Coach Tab [Baldwin] told us that emotion’s good but we shouldn’t lose our focus.”
UP almost missed center Bright Akhutie who hyperextended his left knee in the third quarter but was able to come back into the game at the 7:04 mark of the fourt.
Jun Manzo led UP’s charge with 19 points while Juan Gomez De Liaño added 17 points and eight rebounds but turned the ball over six times.
Ateneo shoots for a sweep on Wednesday at Araneta Coliseum.