In 2009 FEU Center Aldrech Ramos put up numbers that almost gave him the UAAP MVP of that Season, his exemplary season earned him a spot for the SMART Gilas team. The following year it was his team mate RR Garcia who pocketed the MVP as he led the Tams to the finals. Both players led the Tamaraws to the much needed wins to get another finals berth and were tasked to put up good numbers for the Tamaraws to overcome the three time defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles.
The Blue Eagles had no stars who could match up to their numbers but only had one thing going for them which is no secret to the whole league – their team defense. The Blue Eagles limited the high scoring pair as Ramos scored 9 points and pulled down only three rebounds while Garcia missed all seven of his three point attempts to settle for six points. This is the signature defensive game that the Blue Eagles have employed in all its finals games since 2008 as the Blue Eagles swoop down on the hapless FEU Tamaraws enroute to a convincing 82 – 64 win in Game 1 of the Best of three series for the 74th UAAP Basketball Tournament.
The Blue Eagles started hot by scoring six straight points in the opening two minutes as Greg Slaughter scored on an inside feed, Nico Salva on a runner and Kiefer Ravena on a baseline jumper to give the Blue Eagles an early 6 – 0 lead that led to the first ceasefire called by the Tamaraws. The Tams regrouped and countered with their own 6 – 0 run with RR Garcia scoring off a jumper and Sophomore Guard Terrence Romeo canning two jumpers that tied the count at 6 – 6 with six minutes left.
The reason the Tams sued time as early as the first two minutes is to make sure that the first quarter meltdown of the Tams last year won’t happen again and that is is hard to play catch up with the Blue Eagles. The Tams pounced on the Blue Eagles once more to end the quarter on top 19 -14. Terrence Romeo scored 10 first quarter points to pace the Morayta based Tamaraws that weathered the early Ateneo avalanche on points.
The second quarter controlled the game early as the tandem of Chris Tolomia and Rusell Escoto provided additional scoring to the Tamaraws as Ramos, Garcia and Exciminiano combined to give the Tams their biggest lead 28 – 18 with four minutes left in the half. In came the game changer – Mr. Jepoy Erram. Erram’s intimidating presence was felt after he blocked the shot of Tolomia that sent a message to the Tamaraws. The Blue Eagles finally got their game going as as their defense forced the Tamaraws to turnovers which Nico Salva and Kiefer Ravena took advantage by scoring on avalanche of points to preside over a crippling 12 – 0 run to give the Blue Eagles the upperhand 30 – 28. Chris Tolomia scored on a three pointer to give back the lead to the Tams and the half ended with both teams tied 33 – all.
The third quarter started with Captain Kirk Long coming alive by finally showing the chink in Terrence Romeo’s defense. Kirk exploited that match up that made the Tams adjust right away. Long scored 6 points to counter the hot shooting Romeo as both teams fought nail to nail until the final stand still at 45 – all. Just when the Tams thought they had the Blue Eagles covered the three time champions made a decisive run in the last five minutes and the proud fighting Tamaraws never knew what hit them. Nico Salva sank four free throws, scored on a runner and capped it out with a dunk shot to preside over a remarkable 20 – 4 run that the Blue Eagles used to end the third quarter on top 60 – 49 and in more importantly was in full control of the game.
There was no more looking back for the Eagles in the fourth quarter as the Salva put the icing on the cake by scoring six points, Monfort finally hitting a three pointer and Greg Slaughter dunking the ball twice on two great feeds from Ravena and an alley-oop from Long. The biggest lead of the game was established at the 1:43 mark with the Blue Eagles opening a 78 – 58 lead. Dejavu. The Blue Eagles blew out the Tamaraws just like in 2010 with good defense and great teamwork.
The gorgeous 80’s beauty Bo Derek once came out with the number 10 as the perfect number. But today, the perfect game was dished out by the Blue Eagles’ number eight as he went eight for eight for both on field goals and on free throws which is the first perfect game in a championship by an Atenean as the fourth year forward never missed a shot which is just shows that he has taken the lead role for the Blue Eagles in the finals.
Game two is on Tuesday, the only time that the finals will be held on a Tuesday. This a chance for the Blue Eagles to avenge the losses of the Blue Eaglets that lost out in the final 4 to the Baby Tamaraws and to the Grade School SBP team which lost out to Lourdes in the SBP semifinals. The past three years, all three teams won in their respective divisions, now it will only be the Blue Eagles who is on the brink of setting a school record. Go Ateneo One Big Fight!
Justin Chua for two
Ateneo de Manila (82)
Salva 24, Ravena 17, Slaughter 12, Monfort 11, Long 8, Erram 4, Tiongson 4, Chua 2, Gonzaga 0, Golla 0, Austria 0
Far Eastern University (64)
Romeo 23, Escoto 12, Ramos 9, Garcia 6, Exciminiano 6, Tolomia 5, Pogoy 2, Cruz 1, Sentcheu 0, Bringas 0
Quarter scoring: 14-19, 33-33, 60-49, 82-64