Ateneo dethrones La Salle to win UAAP Men’s Basketball Championship
IN ANOTHER epic showdown at the Araneta Coliseum, the Ateneo Blue Eagles defeated the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers, 88-86, to win the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 80 Men’s Basketball Championship on Sunday, December 3.
Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) Thirdy Ravena capped his incredible season with a statline of 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals, and a block. Matt Nieto chipped in with 14 markers and two steals. In the final game of his UAAP career, Chibueze Ikeh finished with a double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds, eight of which were on the offensive glass. Anton Asistio also finished in double figures with 11 points.
All five starters for La Salle were in double-figures, led by Ben Mbala who tallied a whopping double-double of 19 points and 14 boards. Aljun Melecio had 16 markers, while Ricci Rivero added 14 points and seven rebounds. Andrei Caracut chipped in with 13 points, and Santi Santillan added 11 points and 11 boards. No other Green Archer finished with more than four points, as their bench finished with just 13 points for the whole game.
The Blue Eagles began the match strong, gaining a nine-point advantage, 15-6, highlighted by an Ikeh triple off the backboard. A pair of threes by Caracut and Jollo Go reduced this advantage, but two late charity makes by Ravena extended the lead to double-digits, 24-14, at the first quarter buzzer.
DLSU went on a quick 14-3 surge, led by Mbala, to start the second which tied the match 28-all. The two rivals traded baskets to end the period, with the Blue Eagles gaining a slight lead, 45-38, after Asistio banked in a triple that beat the halftime buzzer.
Santillan sparked a quick run for DLSU to begin the period, granting the Green Archers a one-point lead (50-51) in the process. The Blue Eagles regained the lead shortly after, responding with a trio of triples by Matt Nieto, Raffy Verano, and Gian Mamuyac. The high-scoring third period ended fittingly with a 66-all tie.
Matt Nieto and Asistio began the final period hot, hitting a three each which gave Ateneo a six-point lead, 74-68, with seven minutes remaining. The Ateneo lead extended to double-digits, 80-70, after a bucket from Vince Tolentino inside with three minutes left.
Undeterred, the Green Archers answered back with a 10-2 run, capped by a Caracut pull-up triple with 48 seconds on the clock, cutting the Ateneo lead to two, 82-80.
Isaac Go came through in the clutch yet again, icing the game with a soon-to-be iconic triple that gave Ateneo a comfortable five-point lead. Free throws by Asistio and Matt Nieto sealed the victory and title, with a final score of 88-86 spelling an epic finale to the season.
After the match, Coach Tab Baldwin mentioned how grateful he was for the Ateneo community's support. "All year long we've talked about a lot of things. One of the things we talked about was that this community," he explained. "We have to live up to be an Atenean everyday and that means living up to be the best that we can be."
Ateneo-La Salle: 24-14, 45-38, 66-66, 88-86
Ateneo (88): Ravena - 17, Ma. Nieto - 14, Ikeh - 12, Asistio - 11, Tolentino - 9, Go - 7, Verano - 6, Mendoza - 5, Black - 4, Mamuyac - 3
La Salle (86): Mbala - 19, Melecio - 16, Ri. Rivero - 14, Caracut - 13, Santillan - 11, Tratter - 4, Montalbo - 3, Go - 3, Pr. Rivero - 2, Tero - 1