MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Ateneo has had enough of do-or-die contests.
For the first time in 3 years, the Ateneo Blue Eagles only needed one game to eliminate the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 80-61, to clinch the first championship berth in the UAAP Season 81 men's basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum on Sunday, November 25.
Thirdy Ravena led Ateneo's unforgiving assault with 22 points as the Blue Eagles clinched their third straight UAAP Finals and 12th in 18 years.
The defending champions now await the winner of the knockout Final Four duel between Adamson and University of the Philippines on Wednesday, November 28.
Ateneo and FEU clashed in the semifinals for the fourth straight year, and in the last two seasons, the Blue Eagles had to go through a pair of overtime do-or-die matches just to put down the feisty Tamaraws.
This time, however, it was all but over early in the 2nd half when the red-hot Thirdy Ravena drained a three to double up the Eagles' score, 48-24.
FEU only got their first points after the break at the 5:23 mark of the 3rd, off two free throws by Richard Escoto.
Ravena then dropped one more long bomb at the 2:58 mark, pushing their advantage to a whopping 31 points, 59-28.
To make matters worse for FEU, scrappy swingman Alec Stockton, who was their leading scorer at the time, got ejected at the 7:12 mark of the 3rd after hitting Ravena in the face during a ball scramble.
With the game out of hand, Ravena collected his fifth and final foul at the 3:30 mark off a charge.
Despite his early exit, Ravena led the Eagles with a statsheet-stuffing performance that included an 8-of-14 (57%) shooting clip, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block.
Angelo Kouame dropped an easy 18-point, 11-board double-double in his playoff debut with 4 blocks to boot.
"We knew that coming into the game, we're up against a tough FEU team who just had a great win – two great wins against Adamson and against La Salle. So we wanted to make sure that from the start, especially on the defensive end, we're locked in," said Ateneo deputy Sandy Arespacochaga.
"We recognized their key players, who we wanted to defend and take out of their game. We got off to a good start, and we're able to sustain it. We wanted to make sure that there would be no dips in our performance."
No Tamaraw even made it to double-digit scoring. Barkley Eboña led the way with 9 markers, 3 boards, and 2 steals. Kenneth Tuffin grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, but only had 4 points on a 1-of-10 (10%) shooting.
Ateneo 80 – Ravena 22, Kouame 18, Verano 7, Nieto Ma 6, Go 6, Nieto Mi 5, Belangel 4, Mamuyac 3, Asistio 3, Mendoza 3, Black 2, Tio 1, Wong 0, Navarro 0, Daves 0, Andrade 0.
FEU 61 – Ebona 9, Orizu 7, Ramirez 7, Gonzales 6, Inigo 5, Tolentino 5, Stockton 5, Tuffin 4, Parker 4, Escoto 4, Comboy 3, Cani 2, Bienes 0, Bayquin 0, Jopia 0, Nunag 0.
Quarters: 17-9, 38-24, 59-36, 80-61.