NICO SALVA is now in the elite company of big-time Ateneo players.
The soft-spoken forward fired 30 points in Saturday’s Game One of the UAAP men’s basketball Finals against University of Santo Tomas and became only the third player in the school’s history to score 30 or more in a title series.
Salva matched LA Tenorio’s scoring output during the 2001 Finals against La Salle, and was one point short of Rabeh Al-Hussaini’s 31-point production in 2008 also against La Salle.
He was also the fourth player this season to score more than 30 points, joining the company of Bobby Ray Parks of National University (twice), Jericho Cruz of Adamson, and Jeron Teng of La Salle.
Salva’s offensive production was one of the keys to the Eagles’ 83-78 win over the Tigers.
His performance puts on pace to winning a second consecutive Finals MVP award should Ateneo went on and win a fifth straight championship.
“I just want to win championships,” said Salva, recipient of the Finals MVP in 2011 when Ateneo swept Far Eastern University. “’Yun lang ang nasa utak ko, I want to win the championship and ‘yun ang focus ko.”
Salva, who seemed to play better in games that matter most, shot 14-of-23 from the field, grabbed five rebounds, and dished off two assists. He also led the Blue Eagles’ 17-0 run at the start of the third quarter that silenced the Tigers for the first six minutes of the second half.
UST coach Pido Jarencio admitted they didn’t do a good job guarding Salva.
“Medyo napabayaan. Breakout game ni Nico 'yun, hindi ko aalisin 'yun. Ganda ng nilaro ng bata,” Jarencio said.
Salva will have two chances of winning a fifth straight championship together with the Eagles – beginning with Game Two on Thursday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.