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Ateneo gives Canada huge scare

by Jerome Lagunzad

Game Today (Xinzhuang Gymnasium, New Taipei City)
5 p.m. – Japan vs Philippines

Reigning UAAP men’s cage titleholder Ateneo tried its best to fight back in the second half but still came up short against Canada’s 3D Global Sports, 86-78, yesterday in the William Jones Cup at the Xinzhuang Gymnasium in New Taipei City.

After finding themselves on a deep 24-point hole, the Blue Eagles showed some signs of life in the third period and made the Canadians sweat down the stretch, only to bungle several crucial plays that led to their second straight loss in the nine-day tournament.

Steady playmaker Matt Nieto tallied 18 points, 10 of them coming in their strong third quarter showing, while top wingman Thirdy Ravena added 12 points despite a rough 5-of-19 shooting on top of nine rebounds, two blocks, a steal and a lone assist for Ateneo, which will try to break its spell against Japan today at 5 p.m.

Scrappy guard Adrian Wong scored 11 points and provided the defensive spunk with a team-high four steals while Mike Nieto had 10 points off the bench to help the Blue Eagles make a courageous stand in the decisive half against the favored Canadians.

Shaquille Keith finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists while Connor Wood added 16 points and Terry Thomas had 14 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists for the eight-man Canadian unit, which claimed the solo lead with its fourth straight victory in as many outings.

However, the Canadians, who made 11 of their first 20 three-point attempts in the first half, still had to do it the hard way as fatigue started to take its toll on them aside from the Blue Eagles’ expected surge in the second half.

After exploding for 27 points in the third period, the Blue Eagles continued to press on in the final canto, with Ravena scoring a lay-up and Mike Nieto hitting a big triple in a 7-0 run that pulled them within 67-76 with 4:27 left to play.