Unlike their last five Final Four showdowns, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles proved to be too much for the Far Eastern University Tamaraws as the defending champions romped their rivals, 80-61, Sunday afternoon at the SMART Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
“We knew that coming into the game, we are up against a tough FEU team. They had two great wins against Adamson and La Salle. We wanted to make sure that we’ll lock in on the defensive end and identify the key players we want to take out of the game,” said Blue Eagle assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga.
With this, Ateneo will make the UAAP Men’s Basketball Finals for the 12th time in school history — second most in the Final Four era.
And it was Thirdy Ravena, who missed the second round encounter of the two squads last October 20, who led the charge. The 23 for 23 Gilas cadet, who fouled out with 3:32 left, scattered 22 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, and a block.
“Thirdy played great. He was on Arvin and his defense was great. It motivated him to play harder,” Arespacochaga added about Ravena.
The Blue Eagles stormed to an 8-0 run, capped by back-to-back breakaway dunks by Ravena, and never looked back. In addition, the most imposing defense in the league limited FEU to just nine points in the opening quarter.
Ateneo did not settle even after leading by double-digits to enter the second half, starting the quarter with a 15-0 blast. FEU could only get its first point with 5:23 left in the quarter, free throws by Richard Escoto, and could only put up its first field goal a minute and five seconds later, a basket by Hubert Cani.
The defending champions would lead by as much as 31 points in the game, 59-28.
“We wanted to make sure that we won’t have a dip in our performance. We had to make sure that our players were on top of their game regardless of the time and the score. FEU showed a lot of heart and we wanted to give them the respect they deserve,” shared Arespacochaga as FEU needed to overcome two do-or-die games to make it to the Final Four.
Angelo Kouame, the big man who Olsen Racela was wary of entering the game, tallied 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds and four blocks.
Things got chippy between the two squads early in the second half. While the Blue Eagles were in the midst of a game-breaking run, sophomore guard Alec Stockton clocked a driving Ravena as he was leading a break. Stockton, who was retaliating after being taken down by Ravena moments prior, was slapped with a disqualifying foul. He will serve his suspension during opening weekend of Season 82.
Six Tamaraws played their last game for FEU, namely Arvin Tolentino, Prince Orizu, Richard Escoto, Axel Inigo, Jasper Parker, and RJ Ramirez.
The quartet of Tolentino, Escoto, Inigo, Parker, and Ramirez showed great heart to close out the game as they continued to play on until they were subbed out with 26.6 seconds left in the game.
Tolentino and Inigo scored just five points each while Parker only had four. Ramirez and Escoto had seven and four points, respectively.
Orizu, who had seven points and four rebounds, made it to the Final Four in all four years of his stay in FEU.
Ateneo will have to await the winner of the Adamson-UP knockout game. The Finals is set to begin on Saturday, December 1 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The Blue Eagles are gunning for their second-straight men’s basketball — the school’s 10th in the UAAP. Moreover, this squad is looking to give Ateneo its fifth championship in the 81st season of the league.
ADMU 80 – Ravena 22, Kouame 18, Verano 7, Nieto Ma 6, Go 6, Nieto Mi 5, Belangel 4, Mamuyac 3, Asistio 3, Mendoza 3, Black 2, Tio 1, Wong 0, Navarro 0, Daves 0, Andrade 0
FEU 61 – Ebona 9, Orizu 7, Ramirez 7, Gonzales 6, Inigo 5, Tolentino 5, Stockton 5, Tuffin 4, Parker 4, Escoto 4, Comboy 3, Cani 2, Bienes 0, Bayquin 0, Jopia 0, Nunag 0
Quarterscores: 17-9, 38-24, 59-36, 80-61