MANILA—Kiefer Ravena needed just one game to silence his doubters.
A week after a forgettable debut, Ravena finally showed what the hype was
all about as the Blue Eagles downed fierce rival La Salle, 81-72, to grab the solo lead yesterday in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament.
Ravena pumped in all but two of his 24 points in the first half that tilted the momentum to Ateneo’s favor early in the blockbuster battle that drew a star-studded, roaring crowd of 15,491 at the Araneta Coliseum.
Scoreless in his first game, Ravena not only emerged as the game’s highest scorer but also posted game-best numbers in rebounds at 10 and five of Ateneo’s seven steals.
“When I made the first six points I was pumped up,” said Ravena. “I was also thankful that my teammates were looking for me in the first half and good thing I made the shots.”
Adamson—which came close to upsetting Ateneo last week—picked up its first win after an unexpected rout of Far Eastern University, 78-59, in the first game that also drew a sizable crowd.
The Falcons surprisingly toyed with the Tamaraws right in the first half with forward Alex Nuyles leading the charge.
Adamson tied its victim at 1-1, while La Salle dropped its second straight assignment.
After Ravena laid out the groundwork that gave the three-time champions a 41-30 halftime spread, Nico
Salva, Kirk Long and Emman Monfort also helped get the job done for the Eagles, who led by as many as 19 points, 58-39, in the third period.
“[Ravena] pretty much carried us offensively in the first half which really gave us a bit of a cushion going into the second half,” said Ateneo coach Norman Black.
Ravena’s 22-point output in the opening quarters was the most points in the first half since University of Santo Tomas’ Dylan Ababou scored 23 on July 16, 2009 against National University.
“Credit to Ravena, he really got Ateneo’s game going,” said La Salle coach Dindo Pumaren. “I think we also had problems with our second unit, that’s something we have to work on.”
Salva buried 18 points and grabbed seven boards and Long added 10 markers for the Eagles.
Monfort also had 10, the last six on free throws that cushioned the Eagles’ lead after the Archers had trimmed the lead to five, 75-70, with just a minute left.
The 6-foot-11 Greg Slaughter—Ateneo’s other sensational rookie who debuted with 23 points against Adamson—registered seven points, six boards, four assists and two blocks.
“[La Salle] actually double teamed [Slaughter] majority of the game which Adamson did not do,” said Black.
“They were helping defensively, which really opened up our perimeter players. All we had to do was move the ball around.”
LA Revilla carried the La Salle load for the second straight game with 22 points.
It was the Eagles’ first triumph over the Archers this year since losing twice over the summer.
Among the personalities spotted in the crowd were former president Joseph Estrada and his son Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, United States Ambassador Harry K. Thomas and Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Also in the gallery were tycoons Manny V. Pangilinan, Ateneo’s primary supporter, and La Salle’s chief backer Danding Cojuangco.
The Falcons held last year’s finalists scoreless from the field in the final seven minutes to pull away for good after the Tamaraws had closed in within three, 60-57.
“We felt we were playing as a team both on offense and defense,” said Adamson coach Leo Austria. “We know in the end game people expect our team to crumble. But we were able to recover and even raise our game.”
Nuyles buried 16 of his 22 points in the first half and Eric Camson had a double-double of 12 markers and 10 boards.
FEU coach Bert Flores admitted how his wards were thoroughly outplayed by the Falcons, who posted more rebounds (45-32), second-chance points (18-2) and points off turnovers (20-4).
“We were beaten badly on rebounds,” said Flores. “They also have very tall wingmen, we can’t match up.”
Last year’s MVP RR Garcia paced the Tamaraws with 20 points.
Over at the Blue Eagle Gym, La Salle Zobel crushed University of the East, 92-59, to clinch its second straight triumph in juniors action.
The Blue Eaglets, meanwhile, downed the Baby Tamaraws, 60-48, to recover from their opening-day loss against the Junior Archers.