The University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers succeeded in keeping their game close with the defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles.
But in the end, the Blue Eagles’ defense held off the Growling Tigers in the last four possessions as Ateneo escaped with a 71-70 triumph yesterday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Thirdy Ravena unloaded 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Blue Eagles, who went on to register their third straight win in 82nd University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball tournament.
The Blue Eagles, who are now in the solo lead, knew they were in for a tough fight and they got what they were expecting.
Despite their first setback in three games, UST proved that it is a dangerous team and a contender for the crown against the Blue Eagles this season.
Beninese forward Soulemane Chabi Yo hit 25 points for the Growling Tigers as they took charge towards the end of the first half with a 37-33 lead.
The Growling Tigers, getting nine points from Rhenz Abando, Mark Nonoy, and Renzo Subido, hung on to lead until the third period, and were up by three, 56-53 when the fourth period came.
UST, with Zach Huang making six points, was able to enjoy a seven-point edge in opening minutes of the fourth on Brent Paraiso’s floater, 60-53.
That’s when the Blue Eagles woke up. Angelo Kouame, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds, led the charge with his dunk and putback finding their mark with 5:26 to go and tying the count, 56-all.
Kouame, who was already in foul trouble at this time, kept it up, and his tip in with 2:57 left, handed Ateneo back the lead, 68-67.
UST had a chance to win the game, but the Tigers bungled their attempts in the four turnovers that the Eagles forced on them. This included Cansino’s flubbed triple with 3.5 ticks left.
During UST’s bid to score again, Ateneo found a chance to keep their distance on two charities from Ravena and a split from Matt Nieto, 71-67.
“I don’t want to say I told you so, but I told you so. We could see that, we understood that game was going to be a really, really tough game and I feel very, very fortunate that we won the game,” said Blue Eagles coach Tab Baldwin.
Later, Kurt Lojera scored on a clutch basket with 14 seconds left, allowing the La Salle Green Archers to get past National University Bulldogs, 83-82.
La Salle, with Justine Baltazar leading with 23 points and 10 rebounds, squandered a 14-point lead in the fourth, as NU took charge, 82-81, on a 16-1 blast that John Lloyd Clemente and Shaun Ildefonso initiated. Peter Atencio
“When a team like that rattles you a lot, ‘yung familiarity will always be the advantage.’ Yun ‘yung hahanapin mo eh,’ yung familiarity sa isa’t isa. It showed in the last quarter na we were rattled, good thing we were able to push through,” said Green Archers coach Gian Nazario.
Jamie Malonzo added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the La Salle, which picked up their first win in two matches.
Ildefonso banged in 26 points for the Bulldogs, who are winless after two outings.
ATENEO 71 -- Ravena 17, Kouame 11, Mamuyac 10, Navarro 8, Belangel 6, Maagdenberg 6, Ma. Nieto 5, Go 3, Wong 3, Mi. Nieto 2, Andrade 0, Daves 0, Tio 0.
UST 70 -- Chabi Yo 25, Abando 9, Nonoy 9, Subido 9, Huang 6, Cansino 4, Concepcion 4, Ando 2, Paraiso 2, Bataller 0.
Quarterscores: 23-13, 33-37, 53-56, 71-70.
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