Blue Eagle the King: Ateneo wins do-or-die over La Salle to take home the UAAP Championship

ADMU Blue Eagles 88 – DLSU Green Archers 86, ADMU wins the UAAP Season 80 Championship

It was a tight game until the very end. The defending champions, La Salle Green Archers fiercely fought to keep their title. But the Ateneo Blue Eagles executed in the end game to reclaim the UAAP Championship from their arch rivals.

Just like the two previous games in this series, the Blue Eagles jumped out to a fast start. The difference in Game 3 was that they didn’t rely on their outside shooting to build a double-digit lead. They were focused on playing tough defense and an even tougher inside game. Thirdy Ravena got a steal off Ben Mbala, dove for the loose ball and tossed a pass to Matt Nieto from the floor as Ateneo jumped out to a 10-4 lead midway through the quarter. The Blue Eagles would take a 24-14 lead after the first.

Also just like in the previous games, the Green Archers came roaring back in the second period. They turned on their defense and limited Ateneo to just one point for the first half of the second period. They also answered the tough inside play by the Blue Eagles with some tough inside play of their own. Ben Mbala powered through two Ateneo defenders to score on an and-one play. Ricci Rivero and Santi Santillan added scores after their big man’s power move to tie the game.

The second quarter was a tug of war as both teams fought hard to regain the lead. Near the end of the quarter, mental lapses by the Green Archers resulted in five straight points by the Blue Eagles, capped off by Anton Asistio’s buzzer-beating three-pointer. Instead of being down by just two, the Green Archers went into the half down by seven.

Ateneo was able to rebuild a 10-point lead in the third quarter but La Salle came roaring back. Santillan scored seven straight points to bring the lead down to just two points. Aljun Melecio and Rivero scored big baskets to give the Green Archers brief leads, but the Blue Eagles answered back with big hoops to tie the game. And just like how the series started, Ateneo and La Salle were heading into the final period with the score knotted up. Not one inch was given up by both teams.

The Blue Eagles opened the final quarter with another big scoring run. It all started with a high-flying rebound by Ravena who was able to pass it off to Matt Nieto for a three-pointer before he fell to the floor. Chibueze Ikeh got another offensive board which led to an Asistio three-pointer. Vince Tolentino went hard to the hoop for a floater which gave Ateneo another 10-point cushion.

The Green Archers refused to go quietly into the night. They made their move in the final three minutes of the game. Melecio drained a three-pointer from the left wing, followed by Mbala scoring inside for the bang and bucket. With less than a minute left in the game, Caracut drained a long triple from the top of the key to cut the Ateneo lead down to just two points.

With La Salle threatening to steal the game, The Blue Eagles needed a big shot. They got it from their saviour in this year’s postseason, Isaac Go.

The play started out with Matt Nieto who got the ball to the top of the key. He then found Ravena on the right wing who dribbled into the paint and sucked in all of the La Salle defense. As Ravena made his move, Go eased his way into the right wing, behind the three-point arc. As Ravena spun to face the hoop, he dished off to a wide open Go. The big man confidently launched a three-pointer over the hand of a recovering Kib Montalabo. The ball seemingly stayed in the air forever before softly landing into the hoop.

The booming three-pointer was the dagger of the game. That gave the Blue Eagles enough of a cushion to hold off the defending champions and win the final game of the season.

Ravena was named the Finals MVP of the series. He averaged 16.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals in three games. Ravena finished Game 3 with 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals. Nieto and Asistio combined for 25 points and five treys in the game. Graduating players Ikeh and Tolentino scored 12 and 9 respectively in the final games in the UAAP.

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The Blue Eagles are flying high over the UAAP once again.

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