ATENEO leaned on its Batang Gilas trio to open its UAAP Season 81 juniors basketball tournament with a 74-61 trouncing of University of Santo Tomas on Sunday at Blue Eagle Gym.
Kai Sotto towered over the competition with his 24 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks and three assists as the Blue Eaglets gifted Reggie Varilla a winning debut since taking over from Joe Silva, who took over University of the East's seniors team.
Geo Chiu added 15 points, nine boards, and three assists, while Forthsky Padrigao had 13 points on a 5-of-19 shooting from the field, on top of nine rebounds and six assists in the win.
"It was a relief because we won our first game," said Varilla, who nonetheless remained unsatisfied with his side's debut performance.
"There were points in the game that we were about to break the game wide open and then we commit two to three silly turnovers. We did not go down on defense two or three times and suddenly, UST's back in the game.
"We can't do that against other teams, especially yung mga contenders like NU and FEU. We have to do a better job and be patient with our offense," he said.
Ateneo committed 18 turnovers that gave UST 23 easy points, keeping the Espana side in the game before Sotto iced the victory in the endgame.
Mark Nonoy bucked his early foul trouble and unloaded 31 points, six rebounds, and five assists in the losing cause for the Tiger Cubs, while Bismarck Lina had nine points, 11 boards, and two steals.
Joem Sabandal, meanwhile, showed the way for Adamson in a 78-66 triumph over University of the Philippines. The graduating guard had 23 points, eight rebounds, and four assists in the opening day win.
Adam Manlapaz also imposed his presence down low with 12 points and 17 rebounds, while Andrey Doria got 11 points, five boards, two steals, and an assist.
The Junior Maroons were led by Allen Torres, who scored 21 off the bench while also grabbing four rebounds in the defeat.
Ralph Labao chipped in 15 points, three rebounds, and three assists, while Jordi Gomez de Liano collected 14 and six.
ATENEO 74 - Sotto 24, Chiu 15, Padrigao 13, Jaymalin 8, Diaz 6, David 5, De Ayre 3, Espinosa 0, Fetalvero 0, Coo 0, Salandanan 0, Pangilinan 0.
UST 61 - Nonoy 31, Lina 9, Barranco 6, Dolendo 5, Marzan 4, Sumabat 4, Manabat 2, Oliva 0, Casingcasing 0, Amador 0, Benzonan 0, Dumlao 0, Estrella 0.
Quarters: 21-15, 43-35. 58-49, 75-61.
ADAMSON 78 - Sabandal 23, Manlapaz 12, An. Doria 11, Padilla 7, Tulabut 6, Engbino 4, Hanapi 3, Santos 3, Capulong 2, Nitura 2, Prodigo 2, Berwite 2, Dominguez 1, Barcelona 0, Guarino 0.
UP 66 - Torres 21, Labao 15, Gomez de Liano 14, Vergiere 7, Galotera 4, Lopez 3, Estrera 2, Tuazon 0.
Quarters: 23-10, 45-26, 59-52, 78-66.