The Ateneo Blue Eagles claimed their third straight championship after achieving a historic 16-0 sweep capped by an 86-79 victory over the UST Growling Tigers in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 82 finals Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Blue Eagles quelled the Tigers' repeated rallies to successfully complete their three-peat quest and earn their 11th overall title.
Thirdy Ravena rightfully won his third straight Finals MVP award for leading Ateneo in the series, averaging 24.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists including a 32-point explosion in Game 1.
SJ Belangel also shone in the championship stage, knocking down five 3s to finish with a career-high 15 points in Game 2, anchored on five triples. Matt Nieto made sure to end his collegiate career on a high note, contributing 14 points, six rebounds, and five assists.
"I can probably talk all day about this team, but I won't," said coach Tab Baldwin, who is now 3-1 in the UAAP finals. "The 16-0 season is really something that we dreamed about. We didn't talk a lot about it because we never wanted to set that as a goal. But I know that the players particularly dream about it and it is a dream season to go through unblemished, to be able to say to each one of those 16 days, no team was better than us.
"You have to guard against arrogance. You have to guard against overstating what is something that is pretty exceptional."
Ange Kouame played only 17 minutes as he battled foul trouble throughout the game, but he made sure to deliver in the clutch alongside Ravena and Belangel.
Down by as many as 16 points in the first half, CJ Cansino made it a one-point ballgame with 7:49 left in the fourth quarter. Belangel quickly answered with a booming three followed by a jumper from Ravena.
Soulemane Chabi Yo connected on a putback but Belangel once more hit a triple to stop UST from inching closer. Sherwin Concepcion hit a 3 of his own to push the Tigers within four points, 75-71, but that turned out to be the closest that they could get.
Ravena nailed back-to-back baskets before Kouame did the same, including an alley-oop dunk that gave the Blue Eagles a 12-point lead in the last two minutes.
UST made some last-ditch efforts in the closing stretch but Ravena and Kouame put the finishing touches that sealed Ateneo's win.
Rhenz Abando topped for the Tigers with 16 points on an efficient 5-of-7 shooting from the field including three makes from downtown. He also had four rebounds and two blocks.
Unlike in the series opener, Mark Nonoy misfired from the 3-point range but he still finished with 14 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Chabi Yo, who received his MVP award prior to the game, added 11 points and 19 rebounds.
ATENEO 86 -- Ravena 17, Belangel 14, Ma. Nieto 14, Kouame 7, Navarro 7, Go 6, Maagdenberg 6, Wong 5, Daves 4, Mi. Nieto 3, Mamuyac 2, Andrade 0.
UST 79 -- Abando 16, Nonoy 14, Chabi Yo 11, Concepcion 8, Subido 8, Huang 7, Ando 6, Paraiso 5, Cansino 4, Bataller 0, Pangilinan 0.
Quarters: 31-18, 42-32, 67-62, 86-79.
- Ateneo had an incredible winning margin of 16.5 points throughout the season.
- The Blue Eagles extended their win streak to 26 games dating back to last year. They won 8 of the last 12 UAAP titles, including two 3-peat feats.
- Ateneo's Thirdy Ravena, Matt and Mike Nieto, Isaac Go, and Adrian Wong and UST's Renzo Subido, Zach Huang, and Enrique Caunan played their final UAAP game.