By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
DRAWING first blood in their blockbuster best-of-three University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 81 finals series, the Ateneo Blue Eagles are not keen on letting up and looking forward to closing out the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in Game Two later this week.
Took Game One, 88-79, on Saturday in front of a huge crowd of 21,608 at the Mall of Asia Arena, the Eagles moved a win away from repeating as UAAP champions and solidifying their standing as the gold standard in the league right now.
It is something Ateneo said it is happy to be in but admitted that it did come easy as UP came out fighting and determined not only to compete but to win.
“UP showed it deserves to be in the finals. We knew that whoever came out from the UP-Adamson series in the Final Four will present a challenge for us so we really came in prepared,” said Ateneo deputy coach Sandy Arespacochaga following their Game One win.
“We just made sure we were up there defensively. We made sure that Paul Desiderio and Juan Gomez De Liano did not get a high percentage. These guys are good, really good and that was one of our targets, one of our goals defensively. We’re not happy that Jun Manzo got 19 points on a high percentage and allowed them 13 three-pointers on 47% shooting. It something we will look at for us to come up with a good game plan for Wednesday. We will look at the tapes,” he added.
In Game One, UP captain Desiderio struggled for five points on 33% shooting. Gomez De Liano had 17 points but only shot 36% from the field.
On the part of Thirdy Ravena, who had a near triple-double of 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in Game One, the go-getting and hardworking mindset that has been doing it for them continues as they head into what potentially could be the closeout match on Dec. 5.
“As Coach Tab [Baldwin] said, people think we do things differently for situations like this. Actually it’s the same preparation for us, working hard in practice and watching tapes. That is what got us here so we won’t change that,” said Ravena, who got the Eagles going to start the game and teamed up with guard Matt Nieto to help the Eagles finish strong to get the win.
Nieto had a game-high 27 points, going four-of-five from beyond the arc.
Game Two of the UAAP Season 81 finals is on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.