ATENEO pounced on a major defensive blunder by University of Santo Tomas in the dying seconds to pull off a 70-69 victory on Thursday and forge a winner-take-all showdown for this year's Philippine Collegiate Champions League title at The Arena in San Juan.
Kiefer Ravena led the reigning UAAP champions with 21 points and made the uncontested fastbreak basket with 11.4 seconds left against a UST side that anticipated a 24-second shotclock violation after a Kevin Ferrer airball on a three-point miss and failed to go down on defense.
That one crucial play enabled the Blue Eagles to level the best-of-three series at 1-1 and send the battle for the title to a deciding Game Three on December 7.
"Kiefer is the kind of person who’s a winner. He’s been winning ever since he was small, ayaw niya magpatalo," said Ateneo interim coach Gabby Severino. "It’s his one character trait. He doesn’t shy away from making big shots."
Until that defensive breakdown in the end, the Tigers looked ready to exact payback on the Eagles for their loss in the last UAAP Finals, bucking the disqualification on fouls of slotman Karim Abdul in the fourth quarter to keep Ateneo on the back foot in the final minute.
UST Jeric Fortuna answered a Ravena three-pointer with a trey of his own and, after a Ryan Buenafe turnover at the other end, Ferrer finished off a fastbreak with a towering layup that put the Tigers in the lead, 69-68, with one minute 52 seconds to go.
"In the second half the defense of UST was tighter. We had to get the ball to greg slaughter since he is our biggest asset," Severino said.
Severino said there is very little adjustments needed ahead of Game Three since the two teams already know each other very well.
"Medyo kabisado na namin offense and defense nila coming from the UAAP. Minor adjustments na lang. The major thing is to bring the energy. We also have to solve Jeric Fortuna and his pick-and-rolls, we have to defend him better," said Severino.
Ateneo (70) Ravena 21, Slaughter 14, Gonzaga 13, Salva 9, Tiongson 7, Buenafe 4, Sumalinog 2, Golla 0, Pessumal 0, Chua 0, Elorde 0
UST (69) Fortuna 18, Abdul 13, Teng 12, Mariano 12, Ferrer 8, Bautista 4, Afuang 2, Pe 0, Daquioag 0
Quarterscores: 28-14, 43-30, 57-49, 70-69