As advertised, Ateneo de Manila University and University of Sto. Tomas went at it all game long, Wednesday at Araneta Coliseum.
In the end, though, the Blue Eagles’ championship experience as well as Ange Kouame’s presence were still more than enough for them to brave through the scare from the Growling Tigers, 71-70, and remain unscathed in the UAAP 82 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
UST was running and gunning as always, setting the pace for majority of the match-up. "We understood this was going to be a really tough game and I feel fortunate we won the game. This is the kind of game you can credit the team as much as you want," head coach Tab Baldwin said post-game.
That was until Kouame finally made his presence felt down low.
With the Growling Tigers ahead by three, 64-67, with three minutes remaining, a short stab by Thirdy Ravena pulled the defending champions within one.
After defensive stop, Koaume then cleaned up Ravena’s miss for what proved to be the go-ahead basket.
Ateneo would not hit from the field from that point, but its definitive defense coupled with Ravena and Matt Nieto’s steady hands from the line would keep it ahead once and for all - and, more importantly, keep it perfect through three tries in the tournament.
Ravena wound up with 17 points, 11 coming in the second half, to go along with 10 rebounds, two assists, and two steals while Kouame contributed his own 11-marker, 10-board double-double.
Those two more than made up for their slow start to the game with an even finer finish.
Holding high-octane UST scoreless in the last three minutes, though, was a total team effort and Ravena, Kouame, and Matt Nieto were joined by Mike Nieto and Gian Mamuyac to close out the contest.
Mamuyac wound up with 10 points while the Nieto twins combined for seven markers of their own.
Soulemane Chabi Yo powered the Growling Tigers with 25 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks while Rhenz Abando, Mark Nonoy, and Renzo Subido scored nine markers apiece. None of them, however, would be able to buy a basket in the endgame to see their side suffer its first setback after three games.
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.
QUARTER SCORES: 23-13, 33-37, 53-56, 71-70.
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