Championship shifts to Katipunan Anew as Ateneo outlasted La Salle in Game 3 of UAAP Finals

After missing a hook shot in the eliminations that may have given an outright finals berth, Isaac Go may have drained the biggest 3-point shot of his young collegiate career.
With 2 seconds remaining in their shot clock, Go received a pass from Thirdy Ravena and with no choice but to put up a shot, Go put up a looper and swishes the net as the buzzer sounds.
It was a grit and grind game as usual as La Salle managed to take the lead midway the 3rd quarter but Ateneo made a huge run in the 4th quarter to give them an 8 point lead. But again, La Salle fought back and cut the lead into 2 with Andrei Caracut 3-pointer. Then the Isaac Go Title-Clinching shot happened.

The supporter of both teams made the game more exciting as 22,012 fans made it to the venue to watch their favorite teams.
Thirdy Ravena was crowned Finals MVP as he finished the game with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists while Matt Nieto. Chiz Ikeh and Antos Asistio combined for 37 points to help Ravena.
Meanwhile, Season MVP Ben Mbala managed to collect 19 points, 14 rebounds, 1 assists, 2 steals and 4 blocks while Aljun Melecio, Ricci Rivero, Andre Caracut and Leonard Santillan managed to contribute, 16, 14, 13 and 11 points respectively.
With this championship, Ateneo Blue Eagles will get an iPhone X and Trip to Hongkong bonus from “MVP” Manny V. Pangilinan.

UAAP Season 80 Championship: A Big Redemption for the Blue Eagles

Big Finals victory against La Salle completes a turnaround season for Ateneo

After winning last year’s UAAP championship, the De La Salle Green Archers came into the UAAP Season 80 as the favorites to repeat as champions as they had Ben Mbala, the now two-time MVP, on board. 
Although they were defeated by the UP Fighting Maroons and the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles back in the first round, they literally and figuratively stormed into the Final 4 by ending Ateneo’s 13-game winning streak. Then, the defending champions disposed the Adamson Falcons in their lone Final 4 game to enter the Finals for the second straight season.
On the other hand, aside from seeing their 13-game winning streak snapped by the Archers, the Ateneo Blue Eagles had to sweat it out against the Far Eastern University Tamaraws who forced a do-or-die game that even went into an extra period. If not to Isaac Go’s heroics, that 13-1 record that Ateneo established would have been for naught. 
Coming into the best-of-3 championship series, everyone was expecting it to be a bloody affair owing to the fact that it was between Ateneo and La Salle. And it turned out to be a bloody war indeed as blood from both sides was spilled onto the court, numerous times. 
Game 1 went to the guys in blue after a heroic outing from none other than Isaac Go. Game 2, on the other hand, went to the men in green as La Salle erased a 21-point deficit that forced a Game 3. 

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The third game of the series was a beauty to behold as it was filled with non-stop, amazing basketball action from start to finish. In the end,  the Blue Eagles successfully avoided another late-game meltdown after beating the Archers, 88-86- to bring back the crown to Katipunan. 

Redemption

If anything, this championship that Ateneo won showed their determination to redeem their themselves all season long after losing last year’s championship series due to the inexperience of the team, most especially Thirdy Ravena who made costly mistakes in that series. 
Ravena, the Finals MVP this season, has improved tremendously as he contributed to the success of the team not just by scoring on monstrous dunks but, by being a facilitator, a great rebounder and, a defender as well. 
Isaac Go also redeemed himself after missing the potential game-winner against La Salle back in the second round. He rescued the Eagles thrice this season, once against FEU and twice in the Finals- the last one being the booming trey that statistically iced up the Eagles’ victory in Game 3. And, Isaac Go’s “clutchness” even made Norman Black- the man behind Ateneo’s 5-peat run, dance. 
Chibueze Ikeh failed to defend Ben Mbala down low in Game 3 but that didn’t stop him playing his best game of the season after scoring 12 points- including that big dunk late in the 4th quarter, while also grabbing 13 rebounds- 8 from the offensive end. He ended his UAAP career with a championship to savor. What a way to redeem from the previous two seasons that were filled with turmoil, right?

Conclusion

Ateneo will lose three players to graduation next season. However, this would mean that Isaac Go will play a bigger role in the Eagles’ title defense. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves folks. Let Ateneo savor this victory for a little while. After all, it has been 5 years since that last title, right?

A Wheeler’s Opinion: Will the Blue Eagles Recover?

Or will the Tamaraws bury Ateneo’s 13-1 season for good?

Can FEU prevent another Ateneo-La Salle Dream Finals?
The Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles had a chance to go straight to the Finals had they swept the elimination rounds. They failed to do so. They also had the chance to go to the Finals during their first Final 4 match-up against the Far Eastern University Tamaraws. And yet, they failed. Horribly. Now? The Tamaraws have the one chance to do something unique: eliminate an Ateneo team that swept the season’s first 13 games before losing to the De La Salle Green Archers in their final game.
The question is:  Can the wards of Olsen Racela finally overcome the twice-to-beat disadvantage?
The answer is:  Yes.
If you look back at how FEU defended Ateneo in the first game, Ateneo did make 10 shots from three but missed 22 shots. All in all, the Blue Eagles shot 36% from the field and that was one of the things that lost them the game.
Another thing that enabled FEU to forge a sudden-death match later was the notable contributions from Arvin Tolentino and Hubert Cani- both used to play for Ateneo before transferring to FEU. Tolentino, a Rookie of the Year awardee, scored 13 points while Cani provided the additional firepower off the bench to score 11 points. If anything, both former Eagles caused the biggest problems for Tab Baldwin and they will be a problem anew should Ateneo fails to defend later.

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The question now for the Blue and White: Can they recover from their 2-game losing streak?
The answer is: Yes. Assuming they go back to how they won the season’s first 13 games- by scoring more and shooting more efficiently.

Don’t Count Ateneo Out. Just Yet.

After FEU handed out Ateneo its second consecutive defeat last Sunday on an 80-67 victory, some people were saying that Ateneo has already lost their killer instinct. While this may be true, we shouldn’t be throwing Ateneo out of the picture. Just yet. Why? 
Sure, Thirdy Ravena and company shot mostly bricks during the first game but once the shots start to drop for Anton Asistio and the rest of the shooters, they will be hard to stop. The key for Ateneo is really simple: Take as many open shots as you can. Build up confidence as they say.
For FEU, defense is an important key to beating an offense-oriented team like the Blue Eagles. 

Conclusion

Ateneo fans can only hope that their team will rediscover how good their team was during their 13-game winning streak. Why? It will help them win later. And it will help them against La Salle in the Finals- should both teams meet again.

By the Numbers: Ateneo Remains Undefeated After Frustrating UP

UP fought until the Blue Eagles took off for good late in the 4th

Ateneo Blue Eagles vs La Salle Green Archers
Ateneo can end the elimination rounds with a 14-0 record with another win against La Salle.

Sure, the league-leading Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles were able to keep their unblemished state after beating the UP Fighting Maroons, 96-82- in a game that wasn’t decided until the final quarter the Blue Eagles, like they did in their previous games, allowed their opponents to stay within striking distance and only take control of the game in the 4th quarter. 
Sure, the Blue Eagles now have the chance to sweep the elimination rounds and book their ticket to the Finals that will equip them with a thrice-to-beat advantage. 
However, don’t be fooled by the final score as the game was competitive as UP led as much as 12 points before Ateneo came back charging.
How competitive the round 2 of the “Battle of Katipunan” was? 
Below are the numbers:

3-Point Shooting: What Kept UP in the Game. And Not.

Keep in mind that it was actually the UP Fighting Maroons who first beat the defending champions back in their first round. That game saw the Fighting Maroons took 35 shots from beyond the arc and made 16 of them. Against the same team in their second-round encounter, Bo Perasol’s boys only took 32 shots. The result: the Maroons lost. 
Against the Blue Eagles, UP was relatively hot from the three-point line in the first half as they made 50% of their 16 attempts from deep but come the second half, the Fighting Maroons faltered from outside as they only made 3 of 15 from that area, a forgettable 20% shooting. 
Sure, Ateneo was even worse off the three-point line as they only made 7 out of their 24 attempts from that distance but if you missed 18 threes in the second half alone, you cannot expect to win.

Ateneo’s Bench Stepped Up

Sure, Thirdy Ravena only made 2 of his 11 attempts and only scored 10 points but he didn’t have to score more as Isaac Go and Gian Mayumac each scored 13 points, leading Tab Baldwin’s bench troopers. In fact, these two Blue Eagles off the bench almost outscored the entire bench of UP who only managed 29 points, a far cry to the entire bench of Ateneo who combined for 49 of the Eagles’ 96 points. 

Ateneo Shut Down Desiderio

Paul Desiderio had 16 points against Ateneo yesterday but only had 3 points after halftime. This can be associated with the amazing job of Third Ravena and Matt Nieto who took turns in defending and frustrating UP’s main guy on offense. Overall, the Eagles’ defensive efforts were not wasted as they were rewarded with their 13th win in 13 games- all thanks to limiting Desiderio to 33% shooting from the field, including 30% from 3. 

Conclusion

The Blue Eagles will have the opportunity to sweep the elimination rounds assuming they beat La Salle anew. But knowing that this is another Ateneo-La Salle slugfest, anything can happen especially when we look at how their first-round encounter ended, Ateneo can only hope that Thirdy Ravena will regain his groove come Sunday because the Eagles will need everyone on board especially when defending Big Ben Mbala. 
Mind you, folks, it was Ateneo who snapped La Salle’s 13-game winning streak last season. Now? La Salle has the firepower to return the favor. 

A Wheeler’s Opinion: Why Ateneo won’t Win in the Finals against La Salle?

That’s assuming Ateneo sweeps the elimination rounds. And La Salle goes to the Finals, Too

The Blue Eagles are aiming for a possible sweep of the elimination rounds heading into their last 2 games: one of them is against La Salle. 
Sure, Thirdy Ravena soared up for a posterizing dunk in the dying minutes of the Blue Eagles’ 102-83 victory against the still winless UST Growling Tigers. 
Sure, the Blue Eagles were able to keep their undefeated slate with 2 more games to play. 
Sure, they can relax a little bit against the UP Fighting Maroons whom they will face next on Wednesday but knowing Tab Baldwin, he wouldn’t do it. 
It’s not in his character especially being recognized as an international coach. And if you’re facing a team like the Maroons, you should play as if you’re playing against the Ben Mbala-led Green Archers of La Salle because in case you haven’t been watching the UAAP, UP has accumulated 5 wins this season: one of them is against the Green Archers themselves so UP is not the team that Ateneo should be laughing at especially if they want to go straight to the Finals.
Now, La Salle, despite not being the who is on a verge of sweeping their way into the Finals, remains as the favorites to repeat as champions. 
Why? For one, they have the reigning MVP, Ben Mbala who is averaging 26 points per game this season and nobody in the league can match-up against him. 
Another reason why La Salle is still a better team than Ateneo is Ricci Rivero. Rivero has been playing impressive basketball aside from his high-flying dunks. 
Sure, Anton Asistio can knock down three after three after three but when it comes to athleticism, that’s where Ricci Rivero comes into the picture. In fact, it was Rivero’s 19 points that led the way for La Salle against the Blue Eagles back in their first-round encounter which Ateneo won, 76-75.
If there’s one team who is capable of going to the Finals aside from the defending champions, it’s the Blue Eagles. 
Why? They surprised everyone last season when they reached the Finals when everyone thought they wouldn’t even reach the Final 4. They were also the only team to beat La Salle last season. And they gave La Salle everything they had during the Finals and despite La Salle winning the championships thanks to the heroics of eventual Finals MVP Jeron Teng, everyone knew from that moment, Ateneo will be back in the Finals. 
The question is: Can they finally get over the hump and beat La Salle?

The answer is no

Why no? Below are the reasons:

Big Ben is a Big Problem

Sure, Chibueze Ikeh has been playing his best season with the Blue Eagles but Ben Mbala won last season’s MVP for one reason: he caused the biggest problems for his opponents. 
Sure, you can throw two or even three defenders against Mbala but given the fact that La Salle is also loaded with perimeter shooters, it’s not a strategy any coach would employ regardless of Mbala’s performance.
Ateneo may have an emerging Ikeh plus an improving Isaac Go but defending Mbala is entirely a different thing. Big Ben may have scored 18 points against Ateneo back in the first round but we all know he can score more and we can expect to put up an MVP performance come the second-round encounter between both teams on November 12, 2017. And he will be haunting Ateneo should both teams meet again come the Finals. 

Ateneo’s Dangerous Tendency

If there’s one thing that could doom Ateneo’s chances of winning the championship for the first time since the Norman Black era, it’s their bad habit of letting their opponents stay within striking distance before finally stepping on the accelerator late in the game and breaking the game open. This was visible during yesterday’s game between Ateneo and UST where the Growling Tigers were actually within 5 points during the early goings of the Finals until Ateneo stepped on the gas and were never threatened the rest of the way. 
The good thing was: it was only UST. It could have been worse had Ateneo was playing against La Salle. And Ateneo can’t play this way most especially against La Salle because whether Ateneo likes it or no, they were lucky against La Salle back in the first round. They allowed the Green Archers to actually take the lead in the 4th quarter only to win it thanks to a sorry La Salle turnover plus a pair of charities from Mike Nieto. 

Conclusion

Regardless if Ateneo sweeps the elimination rounds or not, we can expect both Ateneo and La Salle to meet again, at least two more times after November 12. For the Blue Eagles, it’s simple: Shut down Mbala and clamp down on defense and you beat the champs. Let the Archers hang around and you can say goodbye to a thrice-to-beat advantage in the Finals.