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UAAP: Eagles triumph

Ateneo and La Salle players battle for ball possession  (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

Ateneo and La Salle players battle for ball possession (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

By Jerome Lagunzad

Game Wednesday (Smart-Araneta Coliseum)
4 p.m. – Ateneo vs La Salle
(Ateneo leads series 1-0)

Ace wingman Thirdy Ravena walked the talk last night as Ateneo outlasted defending champion La Salle, 76-70, in a frantic finish to keep the UAAP Season 80 basketball title within its reach before a sellout Mall of Asia Arena crowd.

The 6-foot-3 Ravena turned a bungled three-point try by teammate Anton Asistio into a huge putback then set up big man Isaac Go for the game-clinching three-point play with 10.4 seconds left to help the Blue Eagles avert a stunning collapse in the face of the Green Archers’ audacious fightback.

The thrilling victory, witnessed by 15,114 fans in attendance mostly clad in blue and green shirts, put Ateneo on the threshold of claiming its first league title since 2012 and ninth overall since entering the league in 1978.

The Blue Eagles have two cracks in achieving that feat starting on Game 2 set on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Ravena, younger brother of former two-time league MVP Kiefer, had an all-around performance of 12 points, six rebounds and four assists while five other teammates scored at least seven points in a well-balanced Ateneo attack.

Diminutive guard Aljun Melecio sizzled with a game-high 24 points, spiked by five triples, but set-to-be-named back-to-back league MVP Ben Mbala was far from his usual dominant self.

ATENEO 76 – Ravena 12, Nieto Ma 11, Nieto Mi 11, Asistio 10, Tolentino 9, Black 7, Verano 5, Go 5, Ikeh 4, Tio 2, Mamuyac 0, Mendoza 0, Porter 0.

DLSU 70 – Melecio 24, Rivero R 10, Mbala 8, Tratter 7, Santillan 7, Rivero P 7, Baltazar 4, Montalbo 3, Caracut 0, Go 0, Tero 0, Paraiso 0.

Quarters: 26-14, 43-39, 60-58, 76-70.