Ateneo's Kiefer Ravena gestures after scoring the final shot against UST. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Kiefer Ravena drilled the game-winning jumpshot with 3.7 seconds to power the Ateneo Blue Eagles to a heart-stopping 63-61 victory over the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers, and earn a share of first place in the UAAP Season 77 men's basketball tournament Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Ravena did not shoot particularly well in the game, making only seven of his 18 field goal attempts, but came up big in crunch time anew in a grind-out contest that had 15 lead changes and five deadlocks.
"That last play was just a very, very talented shot," said Ateneo forward Chris Newsome, who top-scored for Ateneo with 18 points. "Not many people in this league can make that shot, or even have the guts to take that shot."
UST swingman Kevin Ferrer tied the game for the fifth and last time with a split at the charity stripe with 23.1 seconds to go, giving Ateneo just enough time to win the game.
Newsome wasted precious seconds off the clock before passing the ball to Ravena, who eluded the defense of Ed Daquioag and rose just above the free throw line for a jumper that hit nothing but net.
Ateneo head coach Bo Perasol credited the last play to assistant coach Ronnie Magsanoc and lauded his players for following it to the letter, although he was admittedly concerned about the type of shots that Ravena was taking throughout the game.
"I was tempted to tell Kiefer not to make those kinds of shots anymore, those looper shots, because he's been missing," said Perasol. "But knowing Kiefer, he found a way again to make the shot when it really mattered."
The Tigers still had a chance to force overtime or even win the game out-right, but Ferrer's attempt from beyond the arc hit nothing but air.
With their victory, the Blue Eagles now have a 5-1 win-loss record, tying the National University Bulldogs for first place. UST lost their second game after a three-game winning streak.
"We knew it was gonna be a grind-out game against a very tough UST team," said Perasol, noting that both the Blue Eagles and the Growling Tigers featured young bench players but mature starters. "It came down and it boiled down to our match-up with them."
Ravena finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while rookie forward Arvin Tolentino added 14 points and 12 boards while often drawing the assignment of guarding UST center Karim Abdul.
Ateneo had taken a 28-25 hafltime lead, but it soon became clear that the game would go down the wire as the two squads exchanged leads throughout the third period. Even a slam dunk by Ravena -- his third of the season -- did not help the Blue Eagles pull away as the Tigers quickly responded via a floater from Aljon Mariano, who finally had his breakout game with 17 points.
The Blue Eagles still led by four points, 57-53, after Ravena scored off an inbound pass, but a quick 5-0 blast by UST -- capped by a booming triple from Mariano -- gave the lead back to the Growling Tigers with less than two minutes to go.
UST took its last lead of the game at 60-58 after Abdul made a lay-up, but Newsome countered with a three-point play wherein he drew Mariano's fifth and final foul to give the lead back to Ateneo.
Ferrer had a chance to reclaim the advantage, but he could only make one of two free throws, setting the stage for Ravena's dramatic game-winner.
"It was an amazing game," said Newsome. "And a great way to end it."
Despite their victory, Perasol was quick to insist that the Blue Eagles have yet to prove anything. "We just wanted to put ourselves in a good position coming into the second round," he said.
Abdul led the way for UST with 19 points and 12 boards, while Louie Vigil added 11 markers despite struggling with foul trouble. But Ferrer made only one field goal of 11 attempts, and finished with only four points in the game.
UST took a 15-14 lead after the opening quarter with Abdul sending two of Ateneo's big men into foul trouble. But the Growling Tigers went scoreless in the first 5:09 of the second period, while the Blue Eagles unleashed a 13-0 ran that began with a Tolentino triple late in the final frame.
Ateneo, led by Tolentino and Ravena, repeatedly fished for fouls from their UST defenders and got most of their points in that run via the free throw line.
The Growling Tigers countered with a 10-0 blast of their own, using their height to keep the ball in their possession repeatedly. A putback by point guard John Sheriff off a miss by Daquiaog gave the lead back to UST, 25-24.
It was a short-lived advantage, however, as Ravena drilled a runner in the next Ateneo possession to regain the lead, then assisted on a Tolentino lay-up. The Blue Eagles led 28-25 at halftime, with Tolentino already having scored 11 points.
Ateneo finished the game shooting 32.26% from the field, while UST shot 37.93%. But the Blue Eagles, despite being the smaller team, out-rebounded the Tigers 44-36, including a 19-10 advantage on the offensive boards.
ADMU 63 - Newsome 18, K. Ravena 17, Tolentino 14, Elorde 6, Capacio 2, Gotladera 2, Pessumal 2, Porter 2, Babilonia 0, T. Ravena 0
UST 61 - Abdul 19, Mariano 17, Vigil 11, Daquioag 4, Ferrer 4, Sheriff 4, Lao 2, Lo 2, Pe 0, Subido 0.
Quarter-scoring: 14-15, 28-25, 46-45, 63-61