Amid a familiar boisterous sea of blue, Ateneo overcame a gritty University of Santo Tomas squad with a 65-62 Game 2 victory yesterday to capture a historic fifth straight UAAP men’s basketball championship.
The Ateneo veterans starred in one strong final push as the Tigers fumbled with three crucial turnovers in the last 96 seconds and allowed the Blue Eagles to seal a 2-0 sweep of the best-of-three series in front of an electric crowd of 20,186 at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I don’t know when it will, but it’s something that I’m really proud of,” said Ateneo coach Norman Black. “I’m proud of the players, they’re the ones who worked really hard.”
With their latest conquest, the Blue Eagles earned a spot in league history as the second longest reigning basketball team.
For 40 years, no other team had been this dominant since University of the East strung up a remarkable seven straight championships from 1965 to 1971.
“Big players come in big games,” said Black, who called the shots for one last time for the Eagles before heading back to the pro league next week. “But it’s also our defense that really stood out in this game.”
Kiefer Ravena pumped in 22 points capped by a jumper that gave the Blue Eagles a 65-59 buffer with 30.4 seconds left.
“UST really gave us a hard time, but we stuck together as a team. We just wanted to end it,” said Ravena, who also nailed a dagger shot in the dying moments of Game 1.
Greg Slaughter came through the stretch, burying eight of his 15 points in the final quarter while Juami Tiongson had all of his 10 points in the second half on top of a key steal in the Tigers’ final possession.
Finals MVP Nico Salva also chipped in eight points and six rebounds after starring with a career-high 30 points in the Blue Eagles’ 83-78 Game 1 triumph last Saturday.
“I think this one is the sweetest,” said Salva, who figured in all of the Blue Eagles’ five-year title romp. “There’s nothing like leaving your school with a win. I never imagined winning five championships in five years with Ateneo.”
One of the season’s dramas also came to an end as UST coach Pido Jarencio hugged Black at the buzzer following their heated word war the past days.
“I just congratulated him and told him it was a good game,” said Jarencio. “Whatever that was said, in the end it’s just basketball. But I’m proud of my team and thankful to the UST community for their support. It was just the breaks of the game. Hats off to coach Norman.”
Jeric Fortuna paced the Tigers with 20 points, the last on a triple with 21 seconds left that gave the Tigers a final ray of hope.
Earlier, Far Eastern University also bagged a title double as the Lady Tamaraws completed a historic season sweep while the Baby Tams clinched their first juniors crown in 25 years.
The Lady Tamaraws slipped past La Salle, 70-66, in Game 2 of the women’s Finals to become the first team to complete a 16-0 season since 1994, when the league adopted the Final Four format.
Camille Sambile (16 points and 16 rebounds) and Allana Lim (15 and 12) delivered double-double efforts to power the Lady Tamaraws to back-to-back titles.
“One at a time, that’s what we were thinking,” said Finals MVP Soc Borja, who starred with 14 points, five rebounds, seven assists, four steals and one block. “We never throught that it’s going to be 16-0.”
The Baby Tamaraws outlasted a pesky National University side in a thrilling triple overtime, 113-109, for a 2-0 junior series sweep.
Jerie Pingoy and Roger Domingo teamed up for all of the Baby Tams’ 13 points in the third extra period as the Baby Tams dethroned the Bullpups.
Pingoy, this season’s back-to-back MVP, virtually figured in every clutch situation before finishing with a game-high 32 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
First Game (Women)
FEU 70—Sambile 16, Lim 15, Borja 14, Soriano 12, Siat 4, Columna 3, Valenzona 2, Gesalan 2, Tanaman 2.
LA SALLE 66—Piatos 16, Abaca 12, Wilson 10, Ong 9, Viterbo 6, Santos 6, Corcuera 4, Garcia 3, Ong 0, Melendres 0.
Quarters: 16-21, 33-33, 55-49, 70-66
Second Game (Jrs)
FEU 113—Pingoy 32, R. Domingo 23, Aguilon 15, Delfinado 14, J. Domingo 11, Lee Yu 9, Lumba 6, Completo 3, You 0, Magbuhos 0, Hassan 0, Escoto 0.
NU 109—Atangan 26, Cani 19, Biteng 17, Cauilan 13, Morido 10, Battad 9, Canynay 7, Lopena 3, Busa 3, Dela Cruz 2, Mosqueda 0, Lapiz 0, Castillo 0, Banawan 0.
Quarters: 26-21, 46-41, 59-59, 78-78 (reg), 89-89 (1OT), 100-100 (2OT), 113-109 (3OT)
Third Game (Srs)
ATENEO 65—Ravena 22, Slaughter 15, Tiongson 10, Salva 8, Chua 6, Gonzaga 3, Sumalinog 1, Golla 0, Elorde 0, Buenafe 0.
UST 62—Fortuna 20, Teng 9, Lo 8, Abdul 8, Ferrer 7, Bautista 6, Mariano 4, Vigil 0, Pe 0, Afuang 0.
Quarters: 13-14, 29-29, 47-46, 65-62