Ateneo clamps down on Adamson in their second-round encounter at the Araneta Coliseum on Sunday. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE 2) The Ateneo Blue Eagles nearly squandered a 27-point lead but had enough of a cushion to hold off a late rally by the Adamson Falcons, 79-66, to notch their fourth consecutive victory in the UAAP Season 76 men's basketball tournament Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
A blistering 19-0 run by Adamson in the first four minutes of the final quarter turned what looked like a blowout win for Ateneo into a close game, but Kiefer Ravena, Ryan Buenafe and Juami Tiongson all made huge baskets in the clutch and the Blue Eagles were able to pull out the win.
"We all know that Adamson is a very capable team," said Ravena, who had 18 points. "They showed it in that run in the end ...If not for our 20-point lead, probably it would have been a different story."
"Good thing we defended well in the first 32 minutes of the game, but we have to commend Adamson also for making that run," he added.
After a Frank Golla jumper gave the Blue Eagles their biggest lead of the game, 59-32, early in the fourth period, the Falcons scored 19 unasnwered points to cut the advantage to only eight, 59-51.
Jericho Cruz, who was unable to make an impact in the first three quarters, got the ball rolling for Adamson as he attacked the basket and drew fouls from the Ateneans.
But it was Ingrid Sewa and Rodney Brondial who made the most damage, as they took advantage of Ateneo's lack of big men to score easy points inside the pain, often while being fouled. It was a three-point play by Sewa that capped the 19-0 run that allowed the Falcons to cut the lead to single digits with still 5:46 remaining.
Two free throws by Ravena finally ended the Adamson run, and the two squads would exchange baskets from that point. Back-to-back baskets by Ravena were answered by lay-ups from Brondial and Sewa, and a Jansen Rios lay-up allowed the Falcons to threaten for the last time, 61-71, with 2:32 remaining in the game.
In the next Ateneo possession, Buenafe drilled a booming triple that ended Adamson's hopes of completing their comeback, and a floater by Tiongson and another jumper by Golla put the finishing touches on the Blue Eagles' victory.
Cruz would score three more points in the final 13 seconds of the contest, but they proved to be meaningless as the Falcons slumped to their fifth consecutive defeat.
"I have to commend the guys for responding very well," said Ateneo coach Bo Perasol. "Ryan, Frank, everybody who did the little things, especially in the first quarters that we defended really well."
"I liked that we experienced the fact that we can't just go through any other game without finishing it the right way. That's why I was holding back my timeouts -- I want them to experience how it is to adjust to the situations given to them," explained Perasol.
The Blue Eagles played their best in the third quarter, when they outscored Adamson, 24-6, and got contributions from nearly every player as they built a huge lead. A slim 33-26 halftime lead soon ballooned to 20 points, 47-27, as Ateneo opened the period with a 14-1 blast.
They ended the quarter strong as well, scoring eight consecutive points to enter the final quarter with a 25-point lead, 57-32.
With their victory, the Blue Eagles are now above .500 for the first time all season with a 5-4 record, and remain in contention for a spot in the Final Four.
"We're happy that we're above .500, but we're definitely not satisfied," said Ravena.
The Blue Eagles have now won 33 of their last 34 encounters against the Falcons, with Adamson's lone win coming in the Season 74 tournament.
Adamson took an early 11-5 lead, capped by a Rios fastbreak dunk, in the first quarter. But in the final three minutes of the opening period, the Blue Eagles were able to run on the break and then took advantage of Adamson being in the penalty to claim the lead.
Ateneo would end the first quarter on a blistering 14-2 run that allowed them to take a 19-13 lead. The Blue Eagles would lead by as much as 10 points, 31-21 and 33-23, late in the second period, but both teams found points harder to come by in that frame.
Ateneo found itself in penalty with over six minutes to go in the second period, but Adamson could not take advantage as they took only six free throws in the entire first half.
Buenafe finished with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Chris Newsome and Nico Elorde both scored nine points for the Blue Eagles.
Sewa had 17 points and six rebounds for the Falcons, but missed seven of his 12 free throw attempts. Cruz finished with 14 points, 13 of which came in the final quarter. Rodney Brondial and Jansen Rios both scored 14 points, but no other Falcon scored in double digits.
The Blue Eagles shot 48.4% for the game, including a nine-of-18 shooting clip in the third quarter, when they blew the game wide open. Adamson, meanwhile shot 38.1% for the game, including a 1-of-12 mark from beyond the arc.
The Blue Eagles defeated the Soaring Falcons, 71-59, in the first round of the tournament. It was Ateneo's first win of the season.
ATENEO 79 - Ravena 18, Buenafe 18, Newsome 9, Elorde 9, Tiongson 7, Pessumal 6, Golla 6, Erram 2, Enriquez 2, Capacio 2, Tolentino 0, Isaac 0
ADAMSON 66 - Sewa 17, Cruz 14, Rios 14, Brondial 14, Cabrera 3, Inigo 2, Agustin 2, Trollano 0, Petilos 0, Monteclaro 0, Abrigo 0
Quarter-scoring: 19-13, 33-26, 57-32, 79-66