1 December 2018
By Maxine Louise Lagman
Manila, Philippines – Ateneo De Manila University banked on its veteran players Matt Nieto and Thirdy Ravena as they blasted a dominating run in the second half of the game that helped the Blue Eagles outrun the University of the Philippines, 88-79, of the Finals Game 1 in the UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Ateneo was hot from the get-go and capped off the first quarter with an eight-point lead, 26-18, but the Fighting Maroons, who just kept surprising everyone this season, ain’t that easy to fend off.
“I think that UP deserves to be in the finals,” said Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga during the post-game interview. “We said that whoever will win that series between UP and Adamson will be a good match-up for us.”
True to what coach Arespacochaga said, the Maroons gave Ateneo a hard time as they cut the lead to one, 38-39, at the half.
Ateneo retaliated opening the third and kept their cool under pressure to still lead the match.
UP’s star player and MVP Bright Akhuetie had an injury scare in the last six minutes in the third quarter, which shook the Maroons momentum and allowed the Blue Eagles to take advantage.
But even with Akhuetie back in the game at the last seven-minute mark, Nieto and Ravena was too much to handle as they blasted back-to-back baskets for a 13-4 run that gave the Blue Eagles an 84-72 lead.
Nieto shot a back-breaking triple in the last two minutes for a comfortable 14-point cushion as Ateneo cruised to victory from there.
Nieto paved the way for Ateneo with a career-high 27 points, while Ravena filled the stat sheets with an almost triple-double, 21 markers, 10 rebounds and nine assists on top of two blocks and two steals.
On the other hand, Jun Manzo led UP with 19 points, while Juan Gomez De Liaño had 17 markers and eight boards.
Game 2 will be on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum
Ateneo (88) – Nieto Ma. 27, Ravena 21, Kouame 7, Verano 6, Tio 6, Mamuyac 5, Asistio 4, Nieto Mi. 4, Wong 3, Mendoza 3, Go 2, Navarro 0.
UP (79) – Manzo 19, Gomez de Liaño Ju. 17, Gomez de Liaño 11, Akhuetie 10, Dario 9, Desiderio 5, Tungcab 3, Vito 3, Prado 2, Murrell 0, Jaboneta 0, Gozum 0.
Quarterscores: 26-18, 39-38, 63-61, 88-79.
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