Thirdy Ravena was a man on a mission in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 82 finals, leading Ateneo to a 91-77 victory over the UST Growling Tigers Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum, as the Blue Eagles inch closer to a third straight title and completing a season sweep.
Similar to his finals MVP performance a year ago, Ravena produced monster numbers against UST with a season-high 32 points, five rebounds, and three assists.
"Well, it's good to get the win obviously. But we tend to not really see that as a win. We see that as a first half of basketball and we just get a long halftime break," said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin. "We get to prepare for the second half, which will be in your eyes, Game 2. A lot to work on. Tonight we shot the ball really well, over 50 percent. That's probably hasn't been so typical of us this year."
The Blue Eagles are now one win away from a historic 16-0 sweep of the tournament.
Playing like a well-oiled machine, the defending champions showed no rust after their 16-day layoff since sweeping the elimination round. They came out sharp and determined, racing to a 20-4 start in the opening minutes led by an 11-point onslaught from Ravena. Ateneo established a lead as high as 19 points in the first half before UST's Mark Nonoy almost single-handedly kept his team afloat. The speedy guard displayed his explosiveness and dropped 18 points in the first half, helping the Tigers to get within three, 41-38, late in the second period. Ateneo, however, countered with a 13-1 blast to close out the half.
"I always thought the big break was an advantage, not a disadvantage. I'm a big believer in preparation. I think if you give me as a coach more preparation time, that's gonna be an advantage for our basketball team," said Baldwin as the Blue Eagles played last October 30. "We never bought into the stuff about a long layoff makes you rusty and things like that. Not working makes you rusty. Working makes you not rusty. And we worked. We worked hard. But we're not prepared to say that it has won us anything yet because all it's done is get us to the next game."
It was more of the same in the second half for the Blue Eagles with Ravena leading the charge. The graduating forward's layup midway through the third gave Ateneo its biggest lead, 66-43.
Nonoy finished with a personal-best 26 points. Brent Paraiso was UST's second-leading scorer with 14 points and league MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo had a quiet game of 13 points and 10 boards.
"I think UST was so persistent. You saw that. You saw how hard they keep coming at us," Baldwin said of the Tigers. "Our defensive energy was really, really good. But our defensive execution wasn't great. We have some things we have to look at."
Ateneo aims to complete its season sweep and earn its 11th title in school history on Wednesday's Game 2.
"We know we're in for a real tough one on Wednesday. The one thing we've been talking about since UST was our opponent was that teams that Aldin coaches they never quit, they never back down," Baldwin said.
ATENEO 91 - Ravena 32, Kouame 18, Belangel 12, Mamuyac 9, Navarro 6, Nieto Mi 5, Nieto Ma 5, Wong 3, Daves 2, Andrade 0, Go 0, Maagdenberg 0, Mallillin 0
UST 77 - Nonoy 26, Paraiso 14, Chabi Yo 13, Subido 8, Cansino 4, Abando 3, Concepcion 3, Ando 2, Bataller 2, Huang 2
QUARTER SCORES: 32-17, 54-39, 76-58, 91-77
- This is Ateneo's 25th straight victory dating back to last season. The Blue Eagles' last lost was in October 10, 2018.
- The Growling Tigers' 3-point shooting was on-point despite the lopsided loss as they shot 14-of-41 from deep.
Game 2 (Wednesday, November 16) - Ateneo versus UST at SM MOA Arena