Thursday, 11 October 2012 139 Comments
By JOSEF T. RAMOS (with Enzo Flojo)
ATENEO DE Manila University gave head coach Norman Black a fitting farewell by winning his fifth consecutive University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball title at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
Sophomore guard Kiefer Ravena, who had a game-high 22 points, buried an insurance basket with 30 ticks remaining on the way to the Blue Eagles’ 65-62 conquest of the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers in Game 2 of the best-of-three UAAP Season 75 championship series.
Ateneo won Game 1 last Saturday, 83-78.
“It was a great championship experience,” said Ravena, who scored the jumper after a ‘killer crossover move’ against Jeric Fortuna that gave Ateneo a 65-59 lead with time down to the last 29 seconds. “They (UST) never gave up until the last second, but I’m happy we overcame their challenge. It was sweet.”
“They didn’t simply give it to us. Kudos to them (UST),” he added.
The Growling Tigers didn’t give up in the dying seconds though, as Fortuna, who led his team with 20 points, nailed a three-pointer to slice the Blue Eagles’ lead to just three, 62-65, with 19 seconds to go.
Although Ateneo failed to make a basket in the fading seconds, Ateneo guard Juami Tiongson stole an important possession under the last 10 seconds and threw the ball away as the final buzzer sounded.
Tiongson, who contributed 10 points, had made a key play when he scored a running jumper with 1:12 left to increase Ateneo’s lead to 62-58 before 7-footer Gregory William Slaughter split his free throws for a 63-58 lead with 59 ticks to go.
“We really wanted to give head coach Norman a fitting farewell in the UAAP,” said Tiongson. “We love him very much.”
Slaughter rebounded from a sluggish performance in Game 1 with 15 points and 11 rebounds this time around.
Black, a former best import and grand slam coach in the PBA, surpassed the elite amateur coaches who have won four straight titles like University of the East’s Baby Dalupan (1965 to 1971), UST’s Aric Del Rosario (1993 to 1996) and De La Salle University’s Franz Pumaren (1998 to 2001).
“We had just enough offense to win,” said Black, who will return to the PBA this season to coach Talk ‘N Text. “It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I don’t know when it will. Its’ something I’m proud of. Our recruitment program throughout the years has made it possible to win our five straight titles.”
“I want to be remembered for helping build the foundation for a successful program. I have my biggest respect for UST and Coach Pido Jarencio,” he said. “I predicted in the beginning of the season that UST would be strong. I thought Mariano would make a big difference for them, and it came out to be true.”
Power forward Nico Salva, who played his fifth and last year for Ateneo, posted only eight points after scoring 30 points in Game 1, but later won the Finals Most Valuable Player plum.
“This is the sweetest championship experience I’ve ever had in my collegiate career,” said Salva, who is now setting his sight in the D-League and then the PBA draft in August next year.
UST took a 14-13 lead in the first period, but Ateneo relied on the 11 first half points of Ravena, whose two late charities tied the count, 29-all at halftime.
Ravena’s three-point play provided Ateneo with a 47-42 spread in the third frame, but guard Jeric Fortuna scored four straight points – a split free throw and an off-the-glass three-pointer – to keep UST within one point, 47-46, entering the last canto.
Fortuna started the last period on a high note by hitting a three-pointer to give the Tigers a 49-47 edge.
The Blue Eagles, however, launched a massive 10-2 attack capped by Slaughter’s post up move to lift Ateneo to a 59-51 lead with 6:43 left in the game.
UST countered with its own 7-1 run to come within two, 60-58, on a Jeric Teng put-back with 2:05 left before Tiongson’s clutch runner.
UST center and Mythical Five member Karim Abdul was limited to only eight points and 12 rebounds.
Despite the loss, UST mentor Pido Jarencio remained proud of the boys.
“It is only basketball,” he said in Filipino. “All my players have given their best this season, particularly Fortuna, but the good thing is many of my players still have more years left. They have championship experience now.”
Other Notes: This win enabled Ateneo to enter the history books as the only team so far to win five straight UAAP titles in the Final Four era. Nico Salva and Justin Chua are graduating this year having won titles in all of their five years for Ateneo. In 8 UAAP season as Ateneo’s Head Coach, Norman Black steered the team to 8 Final Four appearances, 6 Finals appearances, and 5 titles. Salva was also named Finals MVP for the second straight year. By all intents and purposes, this era in Ateneo will be remembered as one of the most dominant ever in local college ball.