Ateneo's Kiefer Ravena gestures after a three-pointer. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) The Ateneo Blue Eagles took sole possession of second place in the league standings after escaping with a nail-biting 81-78 victory over the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Kiefer Ravena scored 23 points, 12 of which came in the fourth quarter, but he also kept the door open for FEU with a split at the line with 2.4 seconds left.
Mike Tolomia very nearly sent the game into overtime, but his heave from half-court hit the ring then bounced out of the way, giving Ateneo their fourth victory of the UAAP Season 77 men's basketball tournament.
"I like the way we played the game up to the last two minutes," said Ateneo coach Bo Perasol. "We should have been able to finish it better, but it is still a win for us."
Ateneo had taken a seemingly insurmountable 75-66 lead with 1:15 to go, with Ravena drilling a three-pointer and two free throws. But FEU clawed its way back to the game thanks to veterans Mac Belo and Mike Tolomia. A three-pointer by Francis Tamsi with 28.5 seconds left made it a three-point game, 72-75.
Free throws by Chris Newsome, Nico Elorde and Ravena allowed Ateneo to stay ahead in the final seconds even as Tolomia kept burning his defenders with repeated drives to the basket.
Ravena's final free throw with 2.4 seconds to go pegged the final score at 81-78, after Tolomia's last attempt misfired.
"Kiefer delivered for us in crunch time," said Perasol of Ravena. "And I think we played toe-to-toe with the, rebounding-wise and running-wise."
The Blue Eagles now have a 4-1 record, and have bounced back from their first loss of the season last week against the National University. FEU, for its part, dropped to 3-2 this season.
The two squads were tied 35-all at the half, and they continued to trade baskets in the third quarter with Belo and Anthony Hargrove contributing for FEU. Von Pessumal found his mark in the frame to allow the Blue Eagles to keep in step, and it was his baseline drive with 4:40 left that finally gave Ateneo a 51-49 lead.
It would be a lead they will never relinquish, despite the best efforts of Belo, who finished with 22 points, and Tolomia, who had 15.
"I think FEU is one of the teams na hindi mo alam kung paano ka tatalunin," said Ravena, who also had a season-high seven assists. "The players they have, sila Mac and sila Mike, 'yung main guys nila na-contain naman namin."
"Noong dulo na lang sila naka-score. We just stuck to the game plan, to try and contain the two (players)," he added.
It was a back-and-forth game in the first half, with the two teams exchanging leads all the way to the final minute of the second quarter.
FEU repeatedly went inside to Belo and Hargrove to get their points, while Ateneo leaned on Newsome's hot perimeter shooting and timely three-pointers from Elorde and Arvin Tolentino to keep in step with the Tamaraws.
A late four-point burst off two free throws by Ravena and a fastbreak lay-up by Newsome gave Ateneo a 35-32 lead, but Belo calmly sank a triple with 26 seconds to go to tie the game at 35-all going into the halftime break.
Perasol is hoping that their victory today will give the Blue Eagles momentum going into their last two games of the first round.
"I think we have put ourselves in a good position, but as I say, it's going to change in two games, so I'm hoping we could carry this in the two more games that we're going to play in the coming week," the coach said.
ADMU 81 - K. Ravena 23, Newsome 17, Elorde 12, Pessumal 12, A. Tolentino 5, Capacio 5, T. Ravena 4, Gotladera 2, V. Tolentino 1, Babilonia 0, Apacible 0
FEU 78 - Belo 22, Tolomia 15, Hargrove 13, Pogoy 8, Dennison 5, Cruz 4, Jose 4, Tamsi 4, Inigo 3, Ru. Escoto 0, Ri. Escoto 0.
Quarter-scoring: 14-16, 35-35, 58-54, 81-78