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Dethroned ‘five-peat’ champion Ateneo took a big step in its road to redemption, outclassing a rebuilding Adamson side 79-57 on Sunday afternoon while sending an ominous warning to the rest of its rivals in the UAAP Season 77 men’s basketball tournament at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Raring to redeem themselves following a disappointing campaign last season when they missed the Final Four for the first time since 1998 that put a sorry end to their five-year reign, the Blue Eagles came back with a vengeance behind a suffocating defense and a torrid offensive attack, clearly showing the gulf in class against the smaller and rookie-laden Falcons.
Veteran guard Kiefer Ravena tallied 22 points, highlighted by a pair of emphatic jams in the second canto including a tomahawk dunk against Adamson’s 6-foot-7 rookie Matthew Aquino, on top of four rebounds, as many assists and three steals while rookie Arvin Tolentino and athletic wingman Chris Newsome added 12 markers apiece in their wire-to-wire victory, helping Ateneo gain a share of the lead with opening-day winners Far Eastern U and host University of the East.
Rookie Ivan Villanueva had a solid debut by firing away 15 points and nine rebounds while veteran Jansen Rios also had 15 markers but the Falcons still failed to give new mentor Kenneth Duremdes a fitting debut in the country’s premier collegiate league.
Showing up with fire in their eyes, the Blue Eagles jumped the gun on the Falcons, scoring 10 of the first 11 points before employing a full-court press than anchored their dominant performance in the second canto for a hefty 47-20 cushion at the break.
Ateneo led by as many as 29 points twice—the last at 72-43 off Nico Elorde’s jumper midway in the third canto—and virtually cruised to the finish as Adamson failed to offer any kind of resistance.
Aside from winning 34 of their last 35 meetings with Adamson, Ateneo also primed itself up in highly-anticipated showdown with La Salle on July 20 also at the Big Dome.
Although outrebounded by the Falcons 39-42, the Blue Eagles dominated practically all other facets, translating Adamson’s 22 errors into as many points.
Ateneo also shot a solid 28-of-54 (52 percent) from the two-point area, a stark contrast to the Adamson’s atrocious 13-of-45 (29 percent) clip.
The Main Man: Playing like a man on a mission after a so-so outing last season, Kiefer Ravena proved head and shoulders above everyone as he exploded for 22 points, half of them coming in the first half where the Blue Eagles virtually sealed the deal against the Falcons.
Honorable Mentions: Backstopping Ravena were the likes of rookie Arvin Tolentino and athletic wingman Chris Newsome, who already combined for 17 points and seven rebounds in the first 20 minutes.
Game Turning Point: After the Falcons offered early resistance and pulled within 11-15, the Blue Eagles finished the opening canto with a telling nine-to-nothing run then completely pulled away with a strong defensive stance that ignited a dominant showing in the second canto, paving the way for a cruising finish.
He Said It:
Ateneo coach Bo Perasol: At the back of our minds, I want us to be better than last season. If we really dream we’re going to win, let’s dream all the way. I’m just glad we were able to get this win.
Ateneo guard Kiefer Ravena: It’s a new start for us. A new adventure begins for us.
Ateneo (79) —K. Ravena 22, A. Tolentino 12, Newsome 12, Pessumal 8, Elorde 6, Apacible 4, Javellosa 4, Asistio 3, Babilonia 2, Dolinguez 2, Gotladera 2, Capacio 2, T. Ravena 0, M. Tolentino 0, Lim 0, Porter 0.
Adamson (57) — Villanueva 15, Rios 15, Trollano 7, Ochea 7, Inigo 4, Gumtang 4, Baytan 2, Aquino 2, Garcia 0, Polican 0, Monteclaro 0, Pedrosa 0, Barrera 0.
Quarters: 24-11; 47-20; 62-35; 79-57.