by Waylon Galvez
Game Wednesday (Smart Araneta)
3:30 p.m. – Adamson vs UP
The days of taking the hard route to the UAAP Finals is over for Ateneo Blue Eagles.
After two seasons of going through a do-or-die, the twice-to-beat defending champions dispatched Far Eastern University in the first game of their semifinal encounter, 80-61, last night in UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Thirdy Ravena, the Finals MVP last season, led Ateneo’s attack with 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Angelo Kouame – the rookie from Ivory Coast – added 18 points and 11 boards.
It was all Ateneo from the opening buzzer as FEU struggled in vain to find an answer to the havoc wrought by the Blue Eagles, whose defense limited FEU to just 30 percent shooting and denied double-digit production from any Tamaraw player.
The win propelled Ateneo to the finals for the third straight time under American coach Tab Baldwin.
“We know it’s going to be a tough game against FEU,” said Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga. “But from the start we don’t want to give them any edge, and the boys were aggressive (on both ends of the floor) that allowed us to dictate the game.”
Ateneo will face the winner of the other semifinal duel between No. 2 Adamson and No. 3 University of the Philippines, which sent the series to a sudden death following a 73-71 win last Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The game between the Falcons and the Fighting Maroons is set Wednesday at the Big Dome.
“It’s good that we are back in the Finals, and we know it’s going to be an exciting series either against Adamson or UP. We’ll be watching their game, that’s for sure,” said Arespacochaga.
After setting the stage, 17-9, in the first period, Ateneo blew the game open in the second frame behind Ravena and Kouame as the two scored seven points apiece.
Ravena’s pass to a streaking Kouame gave the Blue Eagles a 30-15 advantage with 3:58 left in the second.
The first half saw Ateneo shooting nearly 45 percent (17-of-38) from the field as compared to FEU’s 30 percent (10-of-33).
ATENEO 80 – Ravena 22, Kouame 18, Verano 7, Nieto Ma. 6, Go 6, Nieto Mi. 5, Belangel 4, Mamuyac 3, Asistio 3, Mendoza 3, Black 2, Tio 1, Wong 0, Navarro 0, Daves 0, Andrade 0.
FEU 61 – Eboña 9, Orizu 7, Ramirez 7, Gonzales 6, Iñigo 5, Tolentino 5, Stockton 5, Tuffin 4, Parker 4, Escoto 4, Comboy 3, Cani 2, Bienes 0, Bayquin 0, Jopia 0, Nunag 0.
Quarters: 17-9; 38-24; 59-36; 80-61.