By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE DEFENDING champions Ateneo Blue Eagles stayed undefeated in University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 82 after taming the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, 71-70, in their battle of unbeaten teams on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Made to work by UST for much of the contest, Ateneo (3-0) came through when it needed it most to survive and keep its clean slate intact while sending the Tigers to their first defeat of the season.
The Eagles had early control on the strength of steady outside sniping, taking a 23-16 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
But the Tigers turned the tables on their foes in the second frame as Soulamane Chabi Yo made his presence felt.
UST was on top, 37-33, at the halfway point.
At the start of the third quarter Ateneo came out swinging on the lead of Thirdy Ravena.
It would outscore the Tigers, 10-4, in the first three minutes to go on top, 43-41.
The two teams slugged it out after, fighting to a 48-47 count with four minutes remaining in the period and UST on top.
The Tigers continued to hold off the Eagles for the rest of the frame, holding a 56-53 advantage entering the final 10 minutes.
Rookie Rhenz Abando jump-started things for UST in the fourth canto, helping his team to a 60-55 lead in the early goings.
Angelo Kouame and Ateneo found their footing and managed to tie the score at 62-all with 5:20 left.
The Eagles held a one-point lead, 68-67, entering the last two minutes.
The teams had their chances to advance their scores but could not consummate them, including two free throws from Ateneo’s Gian Mamuyac with 14 seconds remaining off an unsportsmanlike foul from UST captain CJ Cansino.
Ball stayed with the Eagles after.
The Tigers fouled Ravena with 11 ticks remaining and the Ateneo veteran delivered to increase their lead, 70-67.
UST sued for time to set up a play.
Cansino had the ball in his hands and made a three-point attempt which failed to hit the mark, forcing UST to foul once again, this time Matt Nieto, with three seconds left.
Nieto split his charities to make it 71-67.
Renzo Subido drained a triple as time expired for the final score.
Ravena led Ateneo with 17 points and 10 rebounds with Kouame adding 11 and Mamuyac 10 points.
For UST it was Chabi Yo who showed the way with 25 points with Abando and Mark Nonoy adding nine points each.
“It was really a tough game and we are fortunate to come away with a win. It could have gone either way,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin after when asked for his thoughts on the game.
“But there is no resting for us. We play again this weekend,” he added.
Ateneo next plays on Sept. 14 against Far Eastern University while UST returns on Sept. 15 versus National University.