Coming into this season as heavy title favorites, the Ateneo Blue Eagles delivered by sweeping their way to a second-straight UAAP men's basketball crown.
Ateneo ended the UP Fighting Maroons' Cinderella run with a decisive 99-81 Game 2 victory Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum. The Blue Eagles ran the floor like a well-oiled machine, playing efficient offense and impeccable defense on their way to back-to-back titles.
Thirdy Ravena scored a career-high 38 points on 13-of-18 shooting. Ravena's scoring output is the highest in the finals in the last 15 years.
Ravena also earned finals MVP honors with stunning averages of 29.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 2.5 steals, and 1.0 blocks in two games.
Angelo Kouame had a monster double-double of 22 points and 20 rebounds, bouncing back from his quiet outing in Game 1. Raffy Verano added 11 points and six rebounds.
"First of all, I give all the glory to God. I want to thank the players. They're a joy to work with the whole season. I feel very blessed for the opportunity to work with them," beamed Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin.
The Blue Eagles broke the game wide open using a backbreaking 11-4 run to start the third period, establishing a 59-41 lead. Even as the Fighting Maroons countered with a run of their own, it wasn't enough to catch up the number one seed. Ateneo held a commanding 70-56 advantage by the end of the third quarter.
Ravena then turned the final frame into his own shooting showcase. The versatile forward unloaded three triples in the fourth quarter alone that left the Fighting Maroons reeling. Blue Eagles led by as much as 22 points.
Juan Gomez De Liaño led the fight for UP with 24 points on 8-for-14 shooting as well as seven rebounds. Bright Akhuetie, who suffered a knee injury in Game 1, had a solid performance in Game 2 with 19 points and eight rebounds. Graduating star Paul Desiderio managed to get 15 points but only shot 6-for-16 from the field.
This is Ateneo's tenth men's basketball title in the UAAP.
"Everything we do we sacrifice for one another, that's the servanthood that we preach," Baldwin said.
Ateneo 99 -- Ravena 38, Kouame 22, Verano 11, Tio 7, Nieto Ma. 6, Asistio 6, Belangel 6, Go 3, Nieto Mi. 0, Mamuyac 0, Mendoza 0, Andrade 0, Black 0, Wong 0, Daves 0, Navarro 0.
UP 81 -- Gomez de Liaño Ju. 24, Akhuetie 19, Desiderio 15, Gomez de Liaño Ja. 11, Dario 8, Lim 2, Vito 2, Manzo 0, Jaboneta 0, Murrell 0, Spencer 0, Prado 0, Española 0, Longa 0. Quarterscores: 25-13, 48-37, 70-56, 99-81
-- There was a 10-minute delay prior to the start of Game 2 as the Ateneo coaching staff questioned the knee brace of Bright Akhuetie. Under FIBA rules, the brace shouldn't be allowed in the game. UP and Akhuetie conceded, removing the brace.
-- The Blue Eagles owned the rebounding battle, 51-33. They also scored a whopping 52 points inside the paint.