By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE defending University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball champions Ateneo Blue Eagles stayed unbeaten in Season 82, coming from behind to down the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 65-55, in league action on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Had it rough in the first half of the contest, the Eagles recovered in the second fold on the lead of veteran Thirdy Ravena and Ange Kouame to complete the fight back that pushed them to 11 wins in as many games in the ongoing season while sending the Tamaraws (5-6) to a below .500 mark.
Earlier in the day, the De La Salle Green Archers (5-5) swung back to victory after defeating the University of the East Red Warriors, 65-59, with big man Justin Baltazar stepping up for his team down the stretch to survive the tough challenge by their opponents.
FEU had the number of Ateneo in the early goings, taking the opening quarter, 18-15, before creating further distance, on the strength of a more thorough attack, in the second quarter to hold a 40-29 advantage at the half.
In the third quarter, Ateneo tried to make its move and gain some real estate.
Led by Ravena and Koaume the Eagles came to within four points, 42-38, with six minutes to go in the frame.
They kept the pressure on the Tamaraws after but the latter would survive the charge back, still up, 47-46, entering the final quarter.
Ateneo took cue from their run in the third to begin the four quarter, racking up five straight points to take a 51-47 lead inside the first minute.
The two teams went back and forth from there, fighting to a 57-55 count, with 3:40 to go and the Eagles still ahead.
Will Navarro made it a four-point lead, 59-55, for Ateneo with a deuce off a layup with two minutes left.
FEU tried to answer back but failed to and was then made to pay by the Eagles with the latter scoring four straight points to push further away, 63-55, with 1:29 remaining on the clock.
The cushion proved to be enough for Ateneo to be uncatchable at that point as the Tamaraws would not recover from it as they slumped to the loss.
Ravena and Koaume each had a double-double with the former tallying 10 points and 10 rebounds and the latter finishing with 10 points and 14 rebounds to go along with four blocks.
Backup big man Pat Maagdenberg finished with nine points, seven of which coming in the first half where the team struggled. Navarro and Adrian Wong each had eight markers.
“FEU certainly gave us a wakeup call in the first half that we needed,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin of what did it for them in the game.
For FEU, it was LJ Gonzales who top-scored with 12 points with Brandrey Bienes and Ino Comboy having eight points apiece.
LA SALLE AT 5-5
In the first game, Baltazar led La Salle to stave off back-to-back losses by holding their own against a determined UE squad.
Baltazar had 23 points, 10 coming in the last eight minutes of the match, to tow his team to the victory. He also finished with 12 rebounds.
Jamie Malonzo and Encho Serrano backstopped their big man with 12 points each.
The Warriors (3-8), for their part, were led by Rey Suerte with 17 points, followed by Philip Manalang with 14 and Alex Diakhite with 11 points and 20 rebounds.