MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 1) The Ateneo Blue Eagles squandered a double-digit lead but made the big plays in crunch time to survive a second-half rally by the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers, 70-69, in Game 2 of the Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL) Finals Thursday at the San Juan Arena.
Kiefer Ravena scored the go-ahead breakaway lay-up with 11 seconds to go, and Ryan Buenafe made a game-saving block, allowing the Blue Eagles to tie the best-of-three at one game apiece.
"Ang pinakaimportante is we wanted to win. We led for most of the game, pero nag-relax na naman kami during the fourth (quarter)," Ravena said.
The Blue Eagles had led by as much as 17 points, 28-11, after a torrid first quarter that saw them shoot over 80% from the field. Ravena outscored the entire UST squad by himself in the opening frame, 12-11.
But as they have done time and again throughout the UAAP season, the Tigers came roaring back into the game. After trailing by 13, 43-30, at halftime, the Tigers slowly but surely chipped at the Ateneo lead in the third canto.
UST outscored Ateneo 19-14 in the third quarter to enter the fourth trailing 49-57, but they quickly erased the deficit in just the first two minutes of the final quarter.
Sparked by Jeric Teng, the Tigers opened the fourth period with a 10-0 blitz to take a 59-57 lead, their first since early in the fourth quarter.
But the Tigers’ comeback hopes suffered a blow when star center Karim Abdul fouled out midway through the final period. Abdul was called for his fourth personal foul, and then assessed a technical for expressing "resentment" about the call.
Without Abdul on the floor, the Eagles were able to string together an 11-5 run, capped by a Ravena triple that gave them a 68-64 lead with around four minutes to go.
A triple by Fortuna quickly trimmed the deficit to one, then the Eagles committed a crucial blunder when they turned the ball over at the two-minute mark, allowing Kevin Ferrer to score the go-ahead lay-up, 69-68.
Misses by Fortuna and Mariano kept the door open for Ateneo, however. Coming out of a timeout, Ferrer misfired on a long three-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer, and Tonino Gonzaga quickly fired an outlet pass to Ravena down the court for the go-ahead lay-up.
Buenafe would block Melo Afuang's three-point attempt, and Fortuna’s jumper at the buzzer hit nothing but air.
"We had the mindset that we can't relax during the whole game. 'Yun ang nagbigay sa amin ng advantage," Ravena said.
But the Tigers were seen contesting Ravena's go-ahead bucket, claiming that a shot-clock violation should have been called instead since Ferrer's field goal resulted in an airball.
Ravena finished with a game-high 21 points, going 4-of-6 from beyond the arc, while Greg Slaughter had a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Game 3 of the PCCL Finals will be held on December 7 at the Ynares Center in Pasig City.