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Blue Eagles bounce back, keep Maroons winless

Struggling and all, reigning five-time champion Ateneo still has the number of the University of the Philippines.

Backing on a big explosion in the middle quarters, the Blue Eagles reasserted their mastery over the hapless Fighting Maroons with a 72-64 victory Sunday afternoon in the UAAP Season 76 men’s cage action at the MOA Arena.

Prized guard Kiefer Ravena sizzled in the third canto, pumping in nine of his team-high 15 points, while veteran forward Ryan Buenafe and rookie Chris Newsome had 13 markers each as Ateneo made it eight in a row against UP since the Diliman-based squad essayed a 68-58 stunner in July 26, 2009.

More importantly, the Blue Eagles recovered from a 68-72 defeat dealt by University of the East last Wednesday while improving to 2-4 overall.

Joseph Marata emerged as the lone bright spot with a game-high 22 points but UP remained winless after five outings.
 
The Main Man: Now at “50 percent” as he continues to recover from a severe right ankle sprain, Ravena played his finest game in the season so far, coming up with a team-high 15 markers while anchoring the team’s decisive surge in the third canto.

Showing flashes of his usual brilliance, the 6-foot guard proved a handful against his UP defenders in that telling canto, pumping in nine of the team’s 19 markers and nearly matching the Maroons’ atrocious 10-point output.
 
Honorable Mention: Before Ravena’s exploits, there was Beunafe who initially shone the most for the Blue Eagles. His team only holding a close 19-17 lead after the first 10 minutes, the former Finals MVP awardee ignited Ateneo’s pull-away in the second canto, scoring eight of the team’s 19 markers for an eight-point breather at the half.
 
Game Turning Point: After finding UP a tough nut to crack, Ateneo finally got its game going behind the 6-foot-2 Buenafe and posted a 38-30 cushion at the break.

Then Ravena took up the cudgels in the blinding third-quarter onslaught where the Blue Eagles built as high as a 57-58 cushion, thanks to Vince Tolentino’s undergoal stab.

Facing a 54-70 deficit late in the fourth, Marata racked up eight straight points as UP entertained some hopes but Newsome slammed the door on them, completing a thunderous alley-oop dunk off a Juami Tiongson pass.
 
They Said It:
Ateneo coach Bo Perasol: “I think Kiefer is already fifty percent. That gives us confidence.”
 
Kiefer Ravena: “At least in our first three games, the third quarter is always our waterloo. Coming off the half, we’re even leading, sometimes big, but we couldn’t maintain that. Laging nahahabol tapos nagkakatalo sa crunchtime. At least this time, alam na namin gagawin. We learned a lot from those experiences.”
 
The scores:
Ateneo (72) – Ravena 15, Newsome 13, Buenafe 13, Tiongson 9, Golla 6, Pessumal 4, Erram 4, Elorde 4, Tolentino 2, Capacio 2, Murphy 0, Lim 0, Asistio 0.

UP (64) – Marata 22, Ligad 10, Ball 10, Soyud 8, Lao 7, Desiderio 3, Wong 2, Asilum 2, Suarez 0, Pascual 0, Gingerich 0, Gallarza 0, Amar 0.

Quarterscores: 19-17, 38-30, 57-40, 72-64.