Led by Aaron Black, the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles fended off the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, 73-69, in the second game of the first game of basketball wars for UAAP Season 79 at the Araneta Coliseum, Sunday after noon.
Black poured in an all-around game of 23 points seven rebounds, five assists and three blocks– including the dagger jumpshot that extinguished the late UST comeback run. The lefty swingman Black hit a baseline jumper with 31 seconds to go to put the score at 73-66– sealing the victory for the Eagles.
From 34-all halftime score, the game continued to be seesaw battle in the second half with Ateneo edging UST by only a point, 52-51, at the end of the third period. The tide of the game changed in the fourth quarter, however, as the Eagles went on 20-6 fourth quarter rally to post the biggest lead of the game at 14 points, 71-57, with 3:16 to go.
The Tigers countered though with a 9-0 run capped by two Reggie Basibas free throws to put the score at 71-66 with 54 seconds remaining but the Black jumpshot extinguished the fiery UST rally.
“You can’t take any team for granted. UST was a bit of a surprise in the sense that they didn’t join any major (pre-season) tournaments but we knew they were a good team,” said Eagles assistant coach Sandy Arrespacochaga. “We’re happy that we played well enough defensively, especially towards the end and we kept our ball movement going and we hit some crucial outside shots in the fourth quarter.”
“It was just a very good team effort today.” echoed Black. “A lot of the bench guys came off and helped us alot in the fourth quarter.”
Thirdy Ravena, who came off the bench, supported Black with 17 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Bench guys Anton Asistio who hit two three-pointers in the final period, along with Isaac Go who scored a layup provided the end-game lift Ateneo needed.
For the Tigers, Louie Vigil tried to bring the Tigers back but his all-around game of 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists proved to be in vain.
UST will look to bounce back against the University of the East Red Warriors on September 10, Saturday while Ateneo’s next assignment will be the National University Bulldogs on the following day, September 11.
Ateneo: Black 23, Ravena 17, Mi. Nieto 7, Asistio 6, Wong 5, Mendoza 5, Babilonia 4, Tolentino 2, Go 2, Ma. Nieto 2, Ikeh 0, Porter 0, Verano 0.