By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE Ateneo Blue Eagles won their second straight University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) title after completing a sweep of Katipunan neighbors University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in their best-of-three Season 81 finals series on Wednesday.
It was a culmination of what was a dominant finish to the season by the Eagles, which saw them practically channel the unstoppable, winning their last 10 games and being head and shoulders above the competition.
Their 10th UAAP title all-time was also a direct result of a conscious effort to live up to their full potential collectively, the Eagles said, as well as their constant pursuit of excellence.
Greatly challenge by the Maroons in the series-opener last weekend, Ateneo made sure there would not be a repeat of such in Game Two, controlling the contest from start to finish en route to the dominant 99-81 victory.
Thirdy Ravena and Ange Kouame were solid anchors in the championship-clinching victory, proving themselves more than a handful throughout.
Ravena had a game-high and career-high 38 points to go along with six rebounds, six assists and three steals while rookie of the year Kouame had a monster double-double of 22 points and 20 rebounds.
For his solid outing in the finals where he averaged 29.5 points, eight rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.5 steals in two games, Ravena was hailed finals most valuable player.
“Coach Tab [Baldwin] just told us not to let-up during the game, not to be casual. He emphasized that we have to give our all in the last 40 minutes, which was what we did,” said Ravena of the mindset they had for Game Two.
“I did not expect to score that much but the shots were going in so I just fired them off,” he added on his hot shooting in the title-clincher that had him going for 13-of-18 from the field, including five-of-seven from beyond the arc.
With the way they dominated the tournament this season and how their basketball program has been steady for the past few years, not a few are talking of an Ateneo dynasty reminiscent of their five-peat from 2008 to 2012.
Mr. Baldwin said they are still a long way from that but reaffirmed their commitment to what has been the most important for them — pursuing excellence each time.
“Back-to-back titles don’t look so important when you put it next to five in a row. It looks like a little bump on the road compared to that mountain they did,” Mr. Baldwin said, referring to the Ateneo teams that played under coach Norman Black
“We want to pursue excellence and a championship, I guess, is one measure of excellence. We hope that we continue to have championships in the future,” added the Ateneo coach as he spoke with media after their latest title conquest.
With 10 UAAP men’s titles now, the Eagles moved to solo fourth place all-time, breaking a tie with rivals De La Salle Green Archers who have nine.
Far Eastern University is still the winningest in the UAAP with 21 championships, followed by University of Santo Tomas and University of the East with 18 apiece.