MANILA, Philippines - Ateneo blew hot and cold but still prevailed over Mapua, 78-75, to welcome the return of coach Norman Black on a winning note yesterday in the FilOil Flying V Hanes Pre-Season Cup at the FilOil Flying V Arena.
Nico Salva (27 points, six rebounds), Greg Slaughter (16 points and 10 rebounds) and Kiefer Ravena (12 points, five assists, three steals) delivered when it mattered most as the defending champion Blue Eagles notched their sixth win in seven outings for No. 2 in Group A.
"It's nice to be back. I was occupied with Talk n Text and now that they're done with their (PBA) campaign, I can focus on Ateneo," said Black, who let his assistants handle Ateneo while serving as consultant for the Texters' failed title drive in the PBA Commissioner's Cup.
Ravena sank two free throws with 9.3 seconds left in the game, giving Ateneo a three-point cushion for the victory. Josan Nimes earlier hit a three-pointer from the right wing to push Mapua within, to 75-76.
Salva also played tough in the clutch, draining two free throws in the last 46 seconds that made it 75-69. But the Cardinals refused to give up with Gabriel Banal scoring on a putback off an Andrew Estrella split to complete a three-point play in reverse, 72-75.
Salva sizzled with a game-high 27 points and grabbed six rebounds, while Greg Slaughter posted a double-double job of 16 points and 10 rebounds.
"The first team played particularly well. They got us off to good starts in the first and third quarters but the second team could not stand on their own today. In both times we substituted our first team, we collapsed immediately so that's something we need to focus on developing," said Black, who only got 11 bench points, with five from comebacking Ryan Buenafe.
Nimes finished with 24 points coming off the bench for Mapua, and rookie Gab Banal scored 15 points on 4-of-8 shooting and had six boards.
Despite its edge in ceiling, Ateneo was out-rebounded, 37-40, and was outscored in second chance points, 6-8. But the Eagles had +7 in assists, 17-10 and a -4 in turnovers, 12-16.
Later in the day, Jose Rizal U spoiled the debut of reigning PCCL champion San Sebastian College, 79-65, in a fight-marred game that saw JRU coach Vergel Meneses and SSC mentor Topex Robinson clash in a verbal tussle and Bomber John Maconocido get ejected for entering the court during the altercation in the third period.
Unsportsmanlike fouls were slapped on Michael Juico and Maconocido in the 7:16 mark of the third quarter. Juico collided with a soaring Alex Almario, who did not back down as his teammate, Maconocido, joined the fray.
Meneses and Robinson were slapped technical fouls for trash talking.
JRU controlled the game with a fiery start in the first half, 43-31.
MIT, which also drew 15 points, six rebounds and five assists from Gab Banal, dropped to 1-3.
Lyceum, meanwhile, finally tasted victory after four consecutive losses as the Pirates dumped Emilio Aguinaldo College, 59-47, in Group B.
The Pirates held the Generals (1-4) to one point in the first five minutes of the final canto to open a 47-38 cushion. And when EAC pulled to within 43-47, Cris Cayabyab spearheaded a 12-4 windup that settled it for LPU.
"We finally got one," said a relieved LPU coach Bonnie Tan. – With report from Roland Quilente