Ateneo's Juami Tiongson scored 15 points as the Blue Eagles defeated Adamson on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena. -- Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE 1) The defending champions Ateneo Blue Eagles finally earned their first victory of the UAAP Season 76 men's basketball tournament after routing the Adamson Soaring Falcons, 71-59, Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Ateneo welcomed back star guard Kiefer Ravena, but it was their veteran core of Juami Tiongson, JP Erram and Ryan Buenafe who sparked the Blue Eagles to their maiden victory.
"More than anything else, this is a relief," said Coach Bo Perasol, who booked his first win as the Ateneo mentor. "If you keep on losing, it challenges your confidence in whatever it is you're doing every day."
"It is a break from that. Nanalo na kami, so we can always follow what we're doing in our practices because we know that there's a fruit to that, and the fruit is this win," he added.
Tiongson broke out of his slump and scored 15 points, including key baskets in the final quarter, while JP Erram had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Ryan Buenafe again put up big numbers, nearly tallying a triple-double with 11 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.
After taking a slim 32-28 lead at the half, the Blue Eagles broke the game open late in the third period thanks to key baskets by Erram.
The Blue Eagles had taken a 44-42 lead, with a little under four minutes to go in the third frame when Erram sparked a 13-5 run to end the period. Erram scored four times from close range, while Buenafe added a jumper and Von Pessumal drilled a triple to contribute.
The Falcons came as close as eight points, 53-61, on a Jericho Cruz lay-up early in the final quarter, but it proved to be the last highlight of the game for Adamson as Ateneo ended the game strong.
Another basket by Erram, this time off an airball by Frank Golla, sparked another 6-0 run that gave Ateneo their largest lead of the game, 70-55, with less than three minutes left.
Perasol said one key to victory was their edge in the boards, as Ateneo out-rebounded Adamson 49-37. Falcons center Ingrid Sewa played only 23 minutes while dealing with a shoulder injury.
"That has been emphasized for the last four or five days -- we need to bridge the game of our rebounding averages against Adamson, the best rebounding team, and us, the worst rebounding team," he said.
He was also happy to see his team step up even as Ravena, still limited by his ankle injury, played only 11 minutes and scored four points.
"There's really no doubt that our team needs Kiefer," Perasol said. "That has been our problem for the last three games -- we've been waiting for a savior. Every time we're leading, or we're behind, we're waiting for Kiefer and he wasn't there."
"Thankfully we were able to overcome that in this fourth game," he added.
Ateneo continued its mastery over Adamson, as they have now won 32 of their last 33 meetings. The Falcons last beat the Eagles in the second round of Season 74.
The victory allowed Ateneo to avoid starting a season with four consecutive losses, which would have been their worst start since 1997.
The Blue Eagles took a 32-28 lead at halftime, with Buenafe scoring eight points and Tiongson adding seven.
A nifty reverse lay-up by Rodney Brondial tied the game at 28 with 2:37 to go in the second period, but Gwyne Capacio scored on the break and Tiongson added two free throws as the Blue Eagles took control of the game.
Cruz led Adamson with 21 points, but shot only 8-of-22 from the field, including 3-of-11 from beyond the arc. Cabrera added 14 points on 5-of-17 shooting.
ADMU 71 - Tiongson 15, Erram 12, Buenafe 11, Newsome 10, Golla 6, Ravea 4, Capacio 4, Pessumal 3, Tolentino 2, Lim 2, Elorde 2, Enriquez 0
ADU 59 - Cruz 21, Cabrera 14, Brondial 8, Sewa 4, Inigo 3, Agustin 3, Rios 2, Monteclaro 2, Abrigo 2, Trollano 0, Petilos 0, Julkipli 0
Quarter-scoring: 13-16, 32-28, 57-45, 71-59