With the game on the line and the seconds ticking away, the ADMU Blue Eagles knew exactly whose number to call. Captain clutch Kiefer Ravena drained a tough fall-away with 3.7s left, giving the Blue Eagles a hard-fought 63-61 win over the UST Growling Tigers. Ateneo’s victory keeps them abreast of the NU Bulldogs at 5-1 in the standings, while the 3-2 Tigers slip to the increasingly crowded middle of the pack. Ravena, who continued his Season 77 shooting woes with 17 points on a mediocre 7/18 outing, saved his best for last in yet another dramatic ADMU win. UST wasted a dominant performance by big man Karim Abdul, who feasted on the Eagles’ frontline with 19 points, on 5/7 shots and 9/10 free-throws. Abdul also tossed in 12 rebounds and a block as UST fell short for the second time this season.
The Growling Tigers and the Blue Eagles traded more blows than baskets in a sloppy, scrappy first quarter of action. Within 2 minutes of the game, an errant elbow from ADMU’s Nico Elorde to UST’s Karim Abdul’s face went unpunished, as the hulking Cameroonian writhed in pain on the floor. 2 minutes later, Growling Tiger swingman Louie Vigil was called for an unsportsmanlike foul after undercutting Blue Eagle Chris Newsome on a corner three attempt. Amidst a chorus of Tiger boos, Newsome’s 3 free throws would cut UST’s early lead to 9-7. The towering Abdul would thrive on the first period’s physicality, banging his way to 6 points and 5 boards in only 7 minutes of play. With time expiring in the quarter, ADMU’s standout rookie Arvin Tolentino buried a triple from the wing to trim UST’s lead to 15-14.
Tolentino, who would impress yet again with a strong 14 point – 12 board double-double, picked up where he left off in the second quarter, scoring 5 consecutive points to ignite a 10-0 rally for the Eagles. It took the Tigers more than 5 minutes to finally tally a basket in the second, as Abdul calmly hit 2 more free throws to end ADMU’s run. After struggling to make a shot to start the 2nd quarter, the Growling Tigers would suddenly explode for 6 straight points, courtesy of Abdul and gunner Aljon Mariano. Kiefer Ravena and Tolentino immediately responded with a pair of baskets to keep the Growling Tigers at bay, 28-25 as the half came to a close.
Ravena would get the ADMU crowd on their feet to start the second half; Ateneo’s King Eagle skilfully ducked under two flailing UST defenders to sink a tough jumper as the shot-clock wound down. Mariano, who would score 5 points in the quarter alone, would answer with a field goal at the opposite end, starting a 6-0 surge for the Growling Tigers that would hand them the lead, 31-30. The UST momentum swing was highlighted by a technical foul on ADMU Head Coach Bo Perasol, a call the loud Ateneo faithful booed lustily. The Eagles’ Chris Newsome, who top-scored for his team with a cool 18 points on 5/9 shooting, pushed back against the growing UST run with 7 points in the period. Starting ADMU point guard After ADMU’s Nico Elorde hit 3 consecutive free throws to hand the Blue Eagles a 2-point cushion, UST’s Kevin Ferrer would counter with his only made shot of the night, a three-pointer to snatch back the lead, 45-44. As the seconds ticked down in the third, UST Head Coach Bong Dela Cruz earned the ire of the officials for excessively complaining about another call on his squad. Ateneo’s Von Pessumal sank the 2 freebies to give the Eagles the slimmest of leads, 46-45, with only the final quarter to play.
UST and ADMU exchanged baskets in an entertainingly competitive fourth quarter. After Abdul carried the Tigers to within 2 points of the Eagles, 55-53, Kiefer Ravena would restore Ateneo’s breathing space with a crafty under-goal layup with only 2 seconds left on the shot clock. Mariano, who shook off his season-long rust to finish with 17 points, drove UST forward in the quarter with 8 points and an assist; His pinpoint entry pass to Abdul finally returning the lead, 60-58, to the Tigers, with barely a minute to play. Newsome would counter with a nifty spin inside for a close-range basket, drawing the 5th foul on a disappointed Mariano. Newsome’s bonus point from the charity stripe would give Ateneo a 1-point lead with 40.5s remaining. UST’s Ferrer responded by nervily hitting 1/2 free throws, knotting the score at a 61-61 deadlock, and setting the stage for yet another game-winner by Ravena.