|Ateneo's Greg Slaughter and Adamson's Ryan Monteclaro get tangled up in their second round match-up of the UAAP Season 75 men's basketball tournament Sunday at the MOA Arena. The Blue Eagles beat the Falcons, 79-72. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) Kiefer Ravena and Nico Salva came up big in the clutch as the defending UAAP champions Ateneo Blue Eagles bucked another scare, nipping the Adamson Soaring Falcons, 79-72, in in their second round meeting of Season 75 on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Eagles closed the game with a 9-1 blast to finally pull away from Adamson, who led for majority of the contest. With the victory, the Blue Eagles bounced back from their shocking defeat against the University of the East (UE) Red Warriors last week.
"That loss to UE reminded us that we're not there yet," said Salva. "We have to continue working and pushing."
The Eagles also clinched a spot in the UAAP Final Four for the 14th consecutive season.
"The difference between this game and the game versus UE is teamwork," said Ateneo head coach Norman Black, whose squad has not lost back-to-back games since Season 71.
The game seemed headed for a cardiac finish as the two squads were tied four times in the final period alone, but Salva and Ravena conspired to put the Eagles in control.
Salva put the Blue Eagles ahead for good with a jumper in the 3:02 mark. Ravena added three free throws to put Ateneo up 75-72, with 1:49 to go.
An up-and-under lay-up from Salva made it 77-72, and Ravena put the nail on the Falcons' coffin when he stole the ball and converted the fastbreak lay-up to make it 79-72 with a little over a minute left in the game.
"Our execution today down the stretch was much, much better," Black said. "Our defense was a little bit suspect today, but it held up in the fourth quarter."
Ateneo shot a remarkable 9-of-11 from the field in the final quarter, while the Falcons were held without a field goal in the final 3:50.
"We still have a lot to work on," Black said. "Lahat. Everything."
The Blue Eagles now have a 10-0 record coming off losses since the UAAP Season 71. But that streak looked as though it was in peril as for long stretches of the game, Ateneo was in danger of losing its second straight contest.
Throughout the game, the Falcons burned the Blue Eagles from the perimeter, with Eric Camson (26 points, six rebounds) doing most of the damage. The Eagles did not help themselves as they committed 21 turnovers; in the first half alone, the Falcons had scored 10 points off 12 Ateneo miscues.
Despite giving the ball away 12 times, the Blue Eagles still managed to tie the Falcons, 38-all, going into halftime thanks in part to their 59% shooting from the field.
In the third period, Camson and Roider Cabrera drained jumper after jumper for the Falcons, but Greg Slaughter (16 points, 12 rebounds) proved to be nearly unstoppable inside as he scored from close range time and again.
The two squads went back-and-forth early in the fourth quarter, with Camson’s sixth three-pointer of the game giving the Falcons their final lead, 71-70, before Salva's go-ahead jumper.
Salva tied his career high with 24 points on a highly efficient 11-of-14 field goal shooting. Ravena finished with 15 points and three steals.
Ateneo had one of its best offensive games of the season, shooting 58.2% from the field. The Falcons finished the game with a 44.6% clip.
Ateneo now has a 10-2 record, while Adamson dropped to 2-10.
ADMU 79 - Salva 24, Slaughter 16, Ravena 15, Elorde 10, Chua 6, Tiongson 3, Buenafe 3, Sumalinog 1, Erram 1, Gonzaga 0, Golla 0
ADU 72 - Camson 26, Cruz 14, Cabrera 10, Monteclaro 8, Brondial 8, Rios 4, Etrone 2, Trollano 0, Petilos 0, Agustin 0
Quarter scoring: 21-25, 38-38, 55-59, 79-72