The Jumpball of Giants
Ryan Buenafe provided the scoring spark while JP Erram made the key defensive stops as the Ateneo Blue Eagles finally found the right answer to the physical defense by the Far Eastern University Tamaraws as the five time defending champions scored a come from behind 74 -71 win at the Smart Araneta Coliseum for the sixth win in the ongoing 75th season of the UAAP. Buenafe scored eight second half points and was the key in breaking down the Tams physical defense with his signature drives that resulted in three point plays. Erram on the other hand grabbed nine rebounds in his limited time and provided the defensive sock on FEU Center Anthony Hargrove.
Juami's shooting saved the day
For the first time in three years former MVP Ryan Roose “RR” Garcia was let loose as the FEU ace playmaker scored 21 points, the last time he scored more than 20 against the Blue Eagles was in 2010 where he scattered 25 points in their 72 – 69 opening game win. After that, Emman Monfort happened and RR was never the same as he averaged only 10 points in 6 games with a 6 point output in game 2 of the 2010 finals. Today, there was no Monfort and RR was left open most of the time and he ran rings around Juami Tiongson and Kiefer Ravena in the first half as he combined with Anthony Hargrove to give the Tams a 12 point lead 35 – 23 in the first half.
Ryan on the drive
After sizing up each other in the first quarter, the Blue Eagle’s offense suddenly went sour in the second quarter. The Men in Blue had good looks but were not making their shots and had a lot of defensive lapses. To make matters worse, the Blue Eagles missed a ton of free throws in the quarter and eventually the whole game as they shot a woeful 23 of 37 from the stripe. There were also a lot of defensive lapses on their part as there was a time when RR Garcia cut to the middle and saw himself all alone for a lay – up while Anthony Hargrove made a head fake drove to the basket and Slaughter saw him make a monster slam dunk. Nico Salva and Kiefer Ravena were bumped and thumped which resulted to a bad first half were both combined for only four first half points, the result was a 27 – 37 deficit for the Blue Eagles entering the second half.
Slaughter monster slam
After the half the most unlikely of heroes came out to the Blue Eagle’s rescue. Fourth year guard Juami Tiongson sank back to back triples while his back up, the spunky transferee from DLSU Nico Elorde also felt like he himself was in a zone as he stopped by the three point area, faked a pass to Greg then buried an all important three pointer to cut down the Tamaraws lead 45 - 46. At one point in the game, Coach Norman had Greg up front with Ryan and Kiefer manning the forward spots and Nico Elorde and Juami teaming up on the back court. That combination produced wonders even though the Tams ended the quarter up by four 53 - 49.
JP Erram was the man
In the fourth quarter the Blue Eagles weaved their defensive magic as they put a lid on the Tams basket. The Blue Eagles on the other hand scored on various ocassions as Buenafe fed Slaughter and Nico Salva who was having an off night. The result was a 69 – 60 lead for the Blue Eagles who were suddenly making their shots and preventing RR Garcia to score together with the other Tamaraws. With the Blue Eagles comfortably ahead, the Tams three desperation three pointers made the score to what it is. This time around, Coach Norman Black found the answer to what the Tamaraws prepared for. The Ateneo bench outscored the Tamaraw bench 24 – 16 on the strength of Buenafe’s 10 points. The Blue Eagles are now primed for the big time.
ATENEO (74 )
Slaughter 17, Tiongson 12, Ravena 12, Buenafe 10, Erram 6, Elorde 6, Salva 6, Sumalinog 3, Chua 2, Golla 0, Gonzaga 0.
Garcia 21, Hargrove 12, Romeo 10, Bringas A. 10, Bringas M. 7, Belo 6, Tolomia 3, Pogoy 2, Cruz 0, Mendoza 0, Sentcheu 0.
Quarter Scores: 18-21; 27-37; 49-53; 74-71
Thanks to Erwin Cabbab for the photos