The Ateneo Blue Eagles clinched a twice-to-beat incentive after sweeping the De La Salle Green Archers, 71-62, in the UAAP Season 81 men's basketball tournament Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
With an 11-2 record, the defending champions secured the number one spot regardless of the result of their final match against UST due to their superior quotient over the second-seeded Adamson (10-3).
"Coming to the game, we weren't thinking about whether we were gonna get the top seed or twice-to-beat," said ADMU assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga. "We had to focus on La Salle. We knew this was going to be a tough game. They've been performing very well in the second round so we expected them to come out and play well. We're happy that we came out with the win."
Thirdy Ravena, who came off the bench for the first time this year, topped with 14 points and ten rebounds. Angelo Kouame also delivered double-double numbers of 11 points and ten boards, to go with two steals.
Raffy Verano played quality minutes to finish with nine points and six rebounds, while William Navarro and Mike Nieto contributed seven points apiece while combining for 12 boards.
After a tight affair that ended in a 35-all deadlock at the half, the rivals traded baskets until the Blue Eagles began gaining momentum in the latter part of the third period. Kouame sparked a 10-3 rally bridging the last two quarters with a slam dunk, followed by baskets from Gian Mamuyac and a triple by Isaac Go.
Justine Baltazar kept the Green Archers within striking distance before Kouame once again fueled an Ateneo run that extended the lead to as high as 13. Ravena's triple capped the late-game charge to make it 71-58 in the last two minutes, holding off any of their opponents' comeback attempts.
Aljun Melecio paced La Salle with 13 points, seven rebounds, and two assists, while Baltazar chipped in 12 points and eight boards.
The Green Archers' 8-5 card keeps them in the third spot but this does not assure them of a Final Four berth. Another loss can put them in a tie with FEU (7-6) and/or UP (7-6).
ATENEO 71 - Ravena 14, Kouame 11, Verano 9, Navarro 7, Nieto Mi 7, Nieto Ma 6, Tio 5, Mamuyac 5, Asistio 3, Go 3, Daves 1, Mendoza 0, Wong 0
LA SALLE 62 - Melecio 13, Baltazar 12, Santillan 10, Caracut 8, Samuel 8, Manuel 5, Montalbo 2, Bates 2, Serrano 2, Go 0
QUARTER SCORES: 18-22, 35-35, 54-50, 71-62
- La Salle, the leading rebounding team before this game with 48.3 per outing, only hauled down 35 boards against Ateneo's 54.
- Ateneo's win handed Adamson (10-3) with the second twice-to-beat bonus. With five losses, the Green Archers can only reach as high as third place in the standings.
Ateneo - November 14 (Wed) vs UST Growling Tigers at Mall of Asia Arena
La Salle - November 14 (Wed) vs UP Fighting Maroons at Mall of Asia Arena