By Kristel Satumbaga
Ateneo showed it was a cut above the rest by besting University of Santo Tomas 86-79 in Game 2 of the finals Wednesday night for a title sweep in UAAP Season 82 men’s basketball at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Eagles etched their name in league history by becoming the first team to finish the season undefeated in 16 games. Previous unbeaten squads Far Eastern University (1980-81) and University of Santo Tomas (1993) did it in the past in 12 and 14 games.
Completing the three-peat campaign, the Eagles also clinched their 11th crown overall.
Ateneo prevailed by an average margin of 16.5 points including Game 1’s 91-77 triumph last Saturday, winning in double figures in all but four games: against UST in the opening round (71-70) and in this match, over Adamson (80-74) and against La Salle (77-69).
Nothing was sweeter than this historic Game 2 win, however, where the Eagles protected their lead despite the Tigers’ relentless attempts.
UST came breathtakingly close in the last 7:40 after back-to-back baskets by Dave Ando and CJ Cansino cut Ateneo’s lead to 67-66.
But the Eagles were quick to recover, uncorking a 16-5 run spearheaded by Thirdy Ravena and Ange Kouame to regain their double-digit advantage 83-71.
Ravena ended his collegiate career with a bang, erupting for 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists. In Game 1, he tallied a season-high 32 points and five boards.
Ravena is the first player to become a three-time Finals MVP with four finals appearance.
SJ Belangel also shone by firing all his 15 points behind the arc in 17 minutes.
Matt Nieto, likewise, made an explosive exit with 14 points, six boards and five assists, while Kouame and Navarro had seven points each.
Also graduating for Ateneo are Mike Nieto, Adrian Wong and Isaac Go.
Rhenz Abando led UST with 16 points, Rookie of the Year Mark Nonoy had 14 and Season MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo finished with 11 points and 19 boards but Ateneo was too much to handle.
Still, it was an achievement for the Tigers on their first finals appearance since 2015.
ATENEO 86 — Ravena 17, Belangel 14, Ma. Nieto 14, Kouame 7, Navarro 7, Go 6, Maagdenberg 6, Wong 5, Daves 4, Mi. Nieto 3, Mamuyac 2, Andrade 0.
UST 79 — Abando 16, Nonoy 14, Chabi Yo 11, Concepcion 8, Subido 8, Huang 7, Ando 6, Paraiso 5, Cansino 4, Bataller 0, Pangilinan 0.
Quarters: 31-18, 42-32, 67-62, 86-79.