UAAP Season 75 Game 4: Ateneo Thumps La Salle
By Joseph W Buduan
Pictures by Max Ferrer and Philip Sison of Fabilioh.com
SMOA Arena 28 July 2012 – Reigning champion Ateneo De Manila went through a couple of uneasy moments but still thumped arch rival De La Salle 71 – 61 in local college ball’s usual first semester blockbuster.
Playing in front of an evenly divided crowd of over 17,000 paying patrons, the SMOA Arena was a well-demarcated sea of blue and green. As is the custom, it was a see-be-seen event with a smattering of show business personalities, politicians, government officials, captains of industry and socialites turning out for the big game. No less than former president Joseph Estrada and his son, incumbent senator Joseph Junior, were at courtside to cheer on their Loyola Heights alma mater. “I’m very satisfied with this win,” quipped the former president on his way out of the courtside area.
Playing to their strengths early on, the Blue Eagles looked poised to turn the game into a rout right from the opening tip. Kiefer Ravena, the former high school superstar, was making timely hits throughout the opening period as he combined with Juami Tiongson to open up a 17-7 lead. Jed Manguera, a former RP Youth mainstay, seemed to be the only Green Archer with his game face on in the opening period, playing tough on-ball and passing lane defense while also nailing a trey. Even when the Ateneo bench came in, it was still more of the same as the Blue Eagles held a 20-8 lead after the first 10 minutes of play. Ravena matched the entire opening period output of the La Salle side.
LA Revilla, a La Salle captain, decided to take over in the second period. This writer already singled out the La Salle sentinel as the key player for the green and white side in a match perview, and the 5-foot-6 Revilla certainly did not disappoint. He started attacking the Ateneo defense with his dribble-penetration, drawing the blue and white defense into committing on him with each incursion. “Coach (Gee Abanilla) just said we had to be more aggressive, so that’s what we did,” Revilla said at halftime on their way to the dugout. The Ateneo actually built up its biggest lead in this quarter at 26-10 on lay-ups by Von Pessumal, Justin Chua and Greg Slaughter. Revilla however just went on a tear, scoring 10 points in the quarter. The Ateneo held on to the 35-26 lead going into the lemon time break when Slaughter tipped in a bucket just before the buzzer.
Things looked like it would fall apart for the Blue Eagles in the critical third period. This quarter has not been kind to the Ateneo since Season 74. It was no different in this contest. Seizing a double-digit lead anew at 37-26, the Blue Eagles seemed ready to put together a new run. But the Green Archers had other ideas. Norbert Torres and Jeron Teng took the scoring cudgels from Revilla as the duo put together a scoring spree to help knot the count at 42-all. Luigi De La Paz completed a nifty and-1 play to suddenly give La Salle the lead at 44-45. Torres knocked in another basket to make it 46-47. The green and white gallery was whipped up into a cheering frenzy, out-cheering and out-shouting the blue and white side urging their guys to keep pouring it on. Teng and Torres combined for 15 third-period points.
Slaughter however made sure that would be the last time La Salle would lead in this game. Using his full seven feet and 265 pounds to maximum use, he bulled his way to crucial baskets against the tall timber of Torres, Arnold Van Opstal and Philip Paredes. He had a nifty up-under move against Van Opstal that helped turn the tide to the Ateneo side once again. “We knew we had to go to Greg to counter the La Salle frontline. Torres is 6-foot-7, Van Opstal is 6-foot-9, so we knew we needed to match up size-wise using Greg a lot,” said Coach Norman Black. Slaughter kept Ateneo in the lead at 53-50 to end the third period.
In the payoff fourth period, it was Nico Salva’s turn to wax hot. La Salle still tried to put a rally together but Salva was playing fireman to the hilt, making sure the Green Arcehrs were kept at bay. All of the heroes that carried the Green Archers throughout the first three quarters ran out of ammunition just when it was most needed. Salva outscored Revilla, Teng and Torres in this quarter all by himself. Slaughter also got a few more licks in himself. Ravena, Salva, and Tiongson each had split charities in the last minute and a half as La Salle suddenly could not buy a basket. Salva had a last-minute transition layup for the final count. “Playing against La Salle is always tough, because the game can be so unpredictable, but we stuck to our plan and everything worked out for us,” said Ravena in the post-game interview.
Slaughter led all scorers with 20 points and seven rebounds. Salva and Ravena each chipped in 16 markers. Slaughter played 34 minutes in this game, the longest he’s been on the floor as a Blue Eagle. “Greg can handle that many minutes. Besides, we had a tough early schedule so we really expected Greg and the other starters to play heavy minutes early in the season. In the coming games we hope to get the bench more time on the floor,” Black explained.
Revilla led La Salle with 16 points and seven assists. Teng added 13 points while Torres contributed 11.