MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles completed a season sweep of the major collegiate leagues by capturing the 2009 Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL) against a hard luck Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws, 74-70, on Sunday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
But in contrast to their dominant title-clinching wins in the UAAP Season 72 and the Unigames, the Eagles went through some anxious moments before finding ways to be crowned as this year’s national collegiate champion.
As if Rabeh Al-Hussaini’s absence was not enough, Ateneo bucked the loss of Eric Salamat down the stretch and leaned on Jai Reyes to clinch the title the hard way.
After Salamat left the game due to cramps with 3:37 left in the game and the Eagles trailing the Tamaraws, 67-68, Reyes came to the Eagles’ rescue.
The steady guard answered back Tamaraw JR Cawaling’s long jumper with a booming triple in the 2:31 mark of the final period to tie the game for the last time at 70-all.
Then Reyes, the nephew of former Ateneo great Jun Reyes and ex-national team coach Chot Reyes, set up Oping Sumalinog for the go-ahead basket in the final 45.2 seconds.
His late exploits were enough to fend off the Tamaraws’ last gallant stand. Ronjay Buenafe sealed the Eagles’ third straight title this year, its second PCCL crown since winning in 2007, with two free throws in the dying seconds.
“I told them that whether they win or lose this game, they’ve already proven that they are a good team. But this game that will determine whether they are just a good team or a great team,” Ateneo coach Norman Black said.
And just like the mark of a great team, the Eagles collectively played with poise and confidence of a champion especially in the endgame to end their magical year with a bang, a day after the school celebrated their 150th foundation year.
After squandering a 16-point lead, 51-35, and trailing by three, 67-70, with under three minutes remaining, the Eagles recovered their bearings while the Tamaraws ran into maze of errors and forced shots.
The loss was a double whammy for FEU coach Glenn Capacio, whose father retired Col. Conrado passed away at dawn before this game.
The Eagles took home the Manny V. Pangilinan perpetual trophy and P500,000.00 worth of athletic items and scholarship grants plus P400,000.00 worth of athletic items and gift certificates from Smart and ABS-CBN Sports for a whopping total of P900,000.00 worth of prizes.
Reyes wins first MVP award in ‘last game’
Reyes, who scored 17 points spiked by four triples and two assists, was named the Most Valuable Player right after he played his final game in an Ateneo jersey.
“It’s my first time to win such an award since my high school years, when I was not still playing in the UAAP,” said Reyes, who averaged 11.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists in the tournament.
“Jai (Reyes)played great for us. This win is for the graduating players [Reyes, Noy (Baclao) and Rabeh Al-Hussaini]. I would like to thank especially Noy for choosing to come here despite having a game in ABL,” Black said.
Baclao, who skipped his Asean Basketball League (ABL) team Philippine Patriots’ game against Brunei Baracuddas, tallied only four points in a foul-plagued 19 minutes of action but was an intimidating force inside the shaded lane for the Eagles especially in the crucial stretch of the game.
Black added that “it would’ve been sweeter if Rabeh is here.”
Al-Hussaini did not play the entire tournament opting to concentrate on his studies and his commitment to the Smart Gilas RP Team.
Meanwhile, Reyes was joined by his teammate Eric Salamat, FEU’s Aldrech Ramos and RR Garcia plus San Beda’s Bambam Gamalinda in the Mythical Five. Black was the hands down choice as the Coach of the Year while Buddy Cortez was named Referee of the Year.
The Tamaraws, who blew a 1-0 series lead, did not go home empty handed as they got P200,000.00 worth of athletic items and scholarship grants for their athletic program while team members got another P200,000.00 worth of athletic items and gift certificates.
ADMU 74 – Salamat 19, Reyes 17, Sumalinog 11, Buenafe 8, Golla 4, Baclao 4, Salva 4, Monfort 3, Austria 0, Long 0.
FEU 70 – Sanga 15, Garcia 14, Ramos 10, Cawaling 10, Exciminiano 8, Manalo 5, Cervantes 4, Noundou 4, Knuttel 0.
Quarters: 20-16, 45-35, 61-59, 74-70. -- Alder T. Almo
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