With Matthew Nieto held to his lowest output this season, teammate Raffy Verano stepped up.
For three quarters, Verano and four other teammates scored baskets that helped the defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles coast to their third straight victory with an 89-62 swamping of the University of the East Warriors in the 81st University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball tournament Season 81 at the Arena in San Juan.
Playing a game of precision, the Blue Eagles drew 12 points from Verano, his highest in three games, as they went on to claim their third consecutive triumph in four matches.
Meanwhile, Sean Manganti fired 18 points and the winning jumper in the final second, allowing the Adamson Falcons to escape a close encounter with the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, 69-68, and pull off their fourth consecutive victory.
Manganti’s heroics came three seconds after Akhuetie Bright’s jumper allowed the Fighting Maroons to taste the lead for the last time.
A 6’3” standout from California, Verano knocked in eight points in the last 3:22 of the second period as Ateneo took control with a 14-point lead, 37-23.
He was no longer around at the start of the fourth period after he suffered an ankle injury, and by then, the Blue Eagles were on their way to posting a 24-point win over the winless Warriors.
The Blue Eagles, with William Navarro adding 11 points, and the pair of Anton Asistio and Jollo Mendoza chipping in nine, have so far registered their highest team output this season and handed the Warriors their fourth consecutive loss.
“We wanted to make sure of two things. We gave importance to our rebounds. Secondly, UE always has fast starts. We wanted to make sure that we could match that,” said Ateneo assistant Sandy Arespacochaga.
The Blue Eagles were in full control of the boards, outrebounding UE, 46-25, with Angelo Kouame making eight points and hauling down 15 rebounds.
The Blue Eagles also made a season record of 24 assists, which is the most by any team this season.
This surpassed the Far Eastern University Tamaraws’ 22 in their encounter with the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons last Sunday.
The Warriors took charge early, 4-0, behind Alvin Pasaol and Jason Varilla.
But triples from Anton Asistio and Nieto sparked a 12-2 run which put Ateneo on top, 12-6.
Nieto, one of the most productive scorers in the team, was held to his lowest with 6 points.
Pasaol had 17 points for the Red Warriors.
ATENEO 89 – Verano 12, Navarro 11, Asistio 9, Mendoza 9, Kouame 8, Ravena 8, Go 7, Nieto Ma 6, Nieto Mi 6, Mamuyac 5, Tio 4, Wong 2, Daves 2, Belangel 0, Black 0, Andrade 0.
UE 62 – Pasaol 17, Bartolome 12, Conner 8, Manalang 7, Cullar 6, Maloles 6, Varilla 4, Gagate 2, Acuno 0, Gallardo 0, Antiporda 0, Lacap 0, Sobrevega 0.
Quarter scores: 24-10, 43-31, 68-44, 89-62.