Two of Nico Salva's 30 pts.
"Everything negative - pressure, challenges - is all an opportunity for me to rise." Maybe that was what Kobe Bryant said to Nico Salva for the latter to earn the nickname NIKOBE! Salva, rose to the occasion as he rebounded from his subpar 2nd round encounter against the Growling Tigers to score 30 points to lead the five-peat seeking Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles to a masterful 83 -78 win against the upset conscious University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers in Game 1 of the Season 75 Seniors Basketball finals.
Ryan scores off Jeric Teng
Salva has helped the Blue Eagles keep pace with the Growling Tigers in the first half as he scored 15 of the 31 points of the Katipunan based Blue Eagles. The Tigers waxed hot in the first half as Aljon Mariano and Jeric Teng both brought their “A” games to the finals. The Blue Eagles could not match the energy that the Tigers exuded and like a well oiled machine the Tigers ran the floor smoothly and shot the ball well. In contrast, the Blue Eagles had 10 turnovers in the first half with most of them unforced. Former Juniors MVP Kevin Ferrer was doing a good job denying Kiefer Ravena the ball and the result was a two point first half for the former rookie of the year. Greg Slaughter on the other hand and Karim Abdul were both non factors in the game as they were constantly double teamed and the ball hardly got to them as Slaughter and Abdul had 5 and 7 attempts in the game respectively. UST led by as much as 11 points in the first half 36-25, as Mariano and Teng repeatedly torched the hoops for a 38 -31 first half lead by the España based Tigers.
Justin scores off Karim
The difference between the first half and the second half for the Blue Eagles were like night and day. Finally the Blue Eagles came out with more spunk, more swagger and more energy as compared to their relaxed and tentative start. In a wink of an eye, the Blue Eagles erased the UST lead and created their own 11 point lead. Nico Salva started the scoring for the Blue Eagles, then Juami Tiongson sank a three pointer, Nico converted another jumper then Kiefer Ravena sank a three pointer. Salva and Ravena scored on two more field goals while Slaughter split his charities to give the Blue Eagles a 48 - 38 lead. Kevin Ferrer would break the Tigers silence at the 3:37 mark with a drive down the heart of the Ateneo defense which was answered by a thre pointer by Nico Salva that gave the Blue Eagles their biggest lead 51 – 40 with 3:13 left in the third quarter. The quarter would end with the Blue Eagles erecting a ten point lead 61 – 51 – a thirty point third quarter.
Juami scored when needed
Just like what everybody predicted, the finals is like a pendulum with each team just looking for the right momentum to swing it to their side. At the start of the fourth quarter, Aljon Mariano took matters into his own hands as he orchestrated another fourth quarter comeback for the Thomasians by scoring nine points in a 13 - 2 run that was punctuated by a fastbreak dunk by Karim Abdul to give back the upperhand to the Tigers 64 – 63 with 6:57 left in the game. The UST crowd suddenly came alive and the championship lived up to its billing with both teams trading punches. The turning point came with 3:04 left and the Blue Eagles protecting a three point lead 73 – 70, Ryan Buenafe once again hit the big shot as he nailed a three pointer and got fouled by Teng. After finishing the four point play, the Blue Eagles were in line for another Game 1 win as Juami Tiongson scored on back to back drives and Kiefer Ravena put the nail in the coffin with a jumper with 8 seconds to go. Mariano and Teng scored 8 points in that span for the final score 83 – 78 with the Blue Eagles drawing first blood.
with 8 seconds left
Game 1 of the finals is probably one of the best in recent years as the Tigers shot a whopping 52.3% from the field with Mariano shooting 9 for 15 (60%) and Teng 10 for 17 (59%) while Salva making 14 of 23 shots (61%) and Juami Tiongson 5 of 9 (56%). The Tigers were awarded more free throws but unfortunately the 9 missed free throws, 4 in the fourth quarter, hit the Tigers hard.
Ryan scoring the tying basket
A commotion happened after the game when Coach Pido Jarencio lambasted the referees and had a litany of things to say about the officiating during the press conference after the game. Jarencio blew his top on the foul called on Karim Abdul, the UST center’s 5th foul and the free throws that were not awarded on the alleged foul on Jeric Teng who took a three point shot as time expired. Unfortunately his appeal fell into deaf ears. The Blue Eagles can wrap up their 8th UAAP title on Thursday and the 22nd over-all Collegiate title of the Blue Eagles (NCAA and UAAP combined) - the most in country. One Big fight for the Blue and White.
Ateneo (83 )
Salva 30, Ravena 13, Tiongson 12, Buenafe 10, Chua 9, Slaughter 5, Elorde 2, Gonzaga 2, Golla 0, Sumalinog 0.
Teng 25, Mariano 22, Ferrer 13, Abdul 9, Fortuna 4, Lo 3, Pe 2, Bautista 0.
Quarter Scores: 18-24; 31-38; 61-51; 83-78