UAAP Finals: Blue Eagles draw first blood Salva leads rout of TamarawsOne statistic trotted out once the UAAP Men's basketball Finals come along is that the winner of Game 1 of the best-of-three series almost always goes on to win the crown. Pardon the Blue Eagles, though, if they do not take comfort in that stat—it was Ateneo, after all, that, in 2006 against UST, was the last team to lose in the Finals after winning the first game of the series. I wouldn't be surprised if the team basked in the victory for just a few hours then went back to work this morning to prepare for Tuesday's Game 2.
By Jasmine W. Payo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Ateneo coach Norman Black had said that those who question the Blue Eagles’ desire may be in for a surprise.
The Blue Eagles gave Far Eastern University quite a shock with a dominant second-half show to post an 82-64 rout Saturday and move within a victory of a historic fourth straight UAAP men’s basketball crown.
Nico Salva had a perfect game from the field as the Eagles also got away with a lot of baskets from underneath in Game 1 of the best-of-three series that drew a packed crowd of 18,972 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Yesterday's loss may well have shattered FEU's morale. The Tamaraws took their best shot, but Ateneo drew upon its championship experience and chipped away at an early 10-point deficit, forced a tie at the half, played with poise and broke the game wide open after the intermission, and emerged with an 18-point victory.
Ateneo's starters were simply awesome. Four of the five scored in double digits, led by Nico Salva who played great all game long and tallied 24 points (8-8 field goals, 8-8 free throws), 6 rebounds, and 1 block. Presumptive Season 74 Rookie of the Year Kiefer Ravena had 17 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals, and helped the team recover from a double-digit deficit in the second quarter and pull even. Kirk Long didn't neglect his offense this time, scoring 8 points and adding 2 assists and 1 block. Emman Monfort continued his mastery of last year's Most Valuable Player RR Garcia on defense while notching 11 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals. Greg Slaughter had 12 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block. And I think he still hasn't forgotten that FEU led the charge to bar him from suiting up this year, as he had three monster dunks. Ravena and Long (with the imprimatur of the coaching staff?) even looked to helped the big guy get some small measure of revenge by throwing him alley-oop passes (Slaughter converted one).
Even the reserves had their moments: Tonino Gonzaga had 2 assists and a rebound; Juami Tiongson nabbed 4 points, a rebound, and an assist; Justin Chua had 2 points and 4 rebounds; Bacon Austria had 2 rebounds, an assist, and a nice block just before halftime; and JP Erram had 4 points (two of them coming after he shot-faked a Tamaraw player out of the latter's shorts), 2 rebounds, and a block that reminded everyone of the great Nonoy Baclao.
It's nearly impossible to beat Ateneo when everyone's clicking. Even the FEU head coach had to concede that the Blue Eagles played a "perfect" game. As a result, they are now one more big fight away from having a share of history.
[Hat tip to PBFantasy.com for the stats.]