Ateneo beats rival La Salle, wins UAAP championship
MANILA, Philippines – The names of a handful of Ateneo players were being called one after the other to receive individual awards just minutes before game time Thursday.
A few hours later, the Eagles were being called for a trophy as one team.
Ateneo survived a determined La Salle team to win 62-51 and clinch the men’s basketball championship of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Thursday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Eagles looked to breeze through Game Two after taking a 41-26 halftime lead before La Salle, behind the hot sniping of fifth-year guard JV Casio, made it 50-47 going into the final quarter.
But stingy defense in the fourth, the trademark of this Ateneo team that lost only once in 16 games this season, helped the Eagles dethrone the defending champions.
“Coach Norman [Black] only had one advice for us through the course of the season,” Ateneo point-guard Jai Reyes said. “Forget about everything, just play defense.”
It was Ateneo’s fourth UAAP championship and second in the decade after winning in 2002.
The 2008 Eagles may go down as one of the most dominant teams in UAAP history, going 13-1 in the eliminations and routing University of the East in the semifinals before sweeping rival La Salle.
Including their two games in the elimination round, the Eagles went four-of-four versus the Archers during the season, the first time the Loyola Heights school shut out its archnemesis.
As a testament to Ateneo’s over-the-top season, several Eagles took home significant individual awards including the Most Valuable Player awarded to Rabeh al-Hussaini and the Rookie of the Year trophy to Ryan Buenafe.
Eagles forward Nonoy Baclao, adjudged the tournament’s Best Defensive Player earlier, won the UAAP Finals MVP.
“Who would’ve thought we’d be in this situation,” al-Hussaini, who played only two minutes in the first half because of early foul trouble, gushed. “In the first half, I wasn’t able to help my team but when I returned I just wanted to do whatever I could to contribute.
“It’s just been an overwhelming experience.”
Veteran shooting guard Chris Tiu, who returned for one more season—his last—in the hopes of winning a title, led the way for the Eagles with 16 points, a marked improvement from his two-point outing in Game One.
Baclao and relief big man Jobem Nkemakolam added eight points each. Baclao also had 10 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Al-Hussaini, who had 31 points and nine rebounds in Game One, finished with seven and five in 22 minutes Thursday.
“The character of this team has been unbelievable. It’s what makes this team so special,” Tiu said.
“Everybody just stepped up when they needed to and that’s what got us here.”
And when his team needed a spark from its team captain, Tiu gladly stepped into the limelight.
His two free throws, a three-pointer, and a runner helped the Eagles extend a 20-17 lead to a 27-17 bubble at the 7:53 mark of the second quarter, the first time the lead breached the 10-point barrier.
Later Tiu scored on a drive, part of an 8-0 run that shot the Eagles in front 41-26 at halftime.
But the defending champions wouldn’t go down without a fight.
JV Casio, La Salle’s own veteran two-guard, buried five of his six three-pointers in the third quarter to spark the Archers’ 21-9 counterattack and cut down the deficit to 50-47 at the end of the period.
Any semblance of a fight, however, was snuffed out of La Salle after Casio fouled out of the game at the 3:48 mark of the fourth quarter with the score pegged at 55-49 in favor of Ateneo but the game still within La Salle’s reach.
Casio finished with 18 points, 15 of them coming from three-point territory.
Earlier, La Salle already suffered a significant blow when Rico Maierhofer, the Archers’ only legitimate center, was ejected from the game after he incurred a second technical foul because of an unsportsmanlike gesture at the 1:31 mark of the third.
Maierhofer had seven points and three rebounds. – GMANews.TV
writer’s note: a big congratulations to ADMU for winning this season’s UAAP Men’s Senior Basketball Crown. I kinda knew the blue eagles would beat the green archers…with big Rabeh Al-Hussaini and the ever accurate Chris Tiu together with a very strong teamwork coming from the rest of the team…its not hard at all to know who was gonna win. I mean honestly…I find DLSU’s games to be repetitive and pretty much all muscle and bragging. With Maierhofer and Casio, two of DLSU’s best players, out late in the game, they hardly got an offense and a barely defended defense (since I just can’t see how Maierhofer will defend the court with Rabeh charging at him at full speed, Maierhofer is skin and bones compared to Rabeh o_O)
All in all, it was an expected win. Don’t get mad but, this game pretty much lacks the “UMPH” in a finals game. I’m a student of UST, and when we won 2 years ago against ADMU, we fought a HARD bout. I am also in support of the blue eagles since I find most DLSU’s students to be a liiiiiiiiiitle bit on the “head full of hot air” side😛 I wonder if Sharon Yu cried…I hate to see a beautiful face weep😦
More info if I ever come across more info😛
PS: GO! ATENEO! ONE BIG FIGHT! 😀 😀 😀
PPS: My bro will be applying there in 2 years😀 I hope he passes since I really like the colour BLUE!