THE absence of injured gunner Kiefer Ravena left a huge hole in Ateneo’s rotation that was just too big to overcome, said Blue Eagles coach Bo Perasol.
Perasol’s UAAP debut after taking over from Norman Black was a forgettable one as the reigning five-time champions lost to the National University Bulldogs, 54-64, on Saturday.
Ateneo was so outplayed it was on the verge of suffering one of its most lopsided defeats over the past six seasons had it not been for a huge fourth-quarter comeback by the Blue Eagles.
Perasol admitted the absence of hotshot Ravena due to a sprained right ankle created huge problems in terms of match-ups against the Bulldogs.
“Generally, kung titignan mo, masyadong lopsided ‘yung match-up namin against NU with the personnel kung ganoon lang ang ilalaro namin,” said Perasol.
“We were really outplayed,” said Perasol. “We were not able to get our shots and weren’t able to defend them also. Our game plan was to delay them and it didn’t happen.”
With Ravena playing for only eight minutes, the Blue Eagles fell behind by as much as 24 points early in the fourth quarter and only a late fightback made the score respectable in the end.
Still, Ravena's absence was just one of the problems of the Eagles, Perasol said.
“Siyempre, malaking kawalan talaga ‘yung kay Kiefer in terms of poise sa loob. And then, when it mattered, walang suporta. Late na rin kami nagkaroon ng sense of urgency, natambakan na kami,” Perasol said.
“We were not able to get our usual productions from Von (Pessumal) and Frank (Golla), ‘yun ang kulang namin.”
Perasol, however, credited Juami Tiongson, Nico Elorde, and Ryan Buenafe for picking up the offensive cudgels in Ravena's absence. Tiongson and Elorde had 13 and 10 points apiece, while Buenafe, who only played a game during the preseason to focus on his academics, had 10 points, six rebounds, and five steals.
Perasol is confident his players are going to bounce back with Ravena expected to play on Wednesday against Far Eastern University, which won its first game of the season against pre-tournament favorite University of the East.
“I know the guys are going to be better. Siyempre nanibago lang sila. Mabuti na lang Juami, Ryan, and Nico stepped up,” said Perasol.