KIEFER Ravena scored a career-high 29 points yet wasn't the only standout on Sunday as the Blue Eagles tore apart defending champion De La Salle, 97-86, in the two rivals' first meeting of the season in the UAAP men's basketball tournament.
Ravena got a lot of help from rookie Arvin Tolentino, underrated forward Von Pessumal and - of all people - former Archer Fonso Gotladera as the Blue Eagles shrugged off a slow start to dominate the Archers before a sea of blue and green at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Still, it was Ravena who stood at the forefront when the Blue Eagles made the decisive breakaway, shredding La Salle's zone defense with four three-pointers in the fourth quarter - and five overall - to re-establish Ateneo as a title contender this season.
"The only chance we had against them was to play it by possession," said Ateneo coach Bo Perasol. "At the end of the day, they were able to make their shots."
Showing admirable maturity, the teenager Tolentino had a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds in his first Ateneo-La Salle game while Pessumal kept the Blue Eagles in the game in the first half with his 12 points. He finished with 21.
To add insult to injury for the Green Archers, Gotladera, who scored a grand total of two points in two seasons with La Salle, scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Blue Eagles.
He also made the follow-up basket and free throw that made it 80-69 with 3:36 to go before making four clutch free throws when a desperate La Salle time and again deliberately brought him to the foul line to stop the clock.
While Ateneo won its second straight game to gain a share of the tournament lead with National University and University of the East, the Green Archers lost their second successive game in a season where they are the overwhelming favorites to repeat.
Jason Perkins led La Salle with 25 points while Almond Vosotros and Jeron Teng had 18 and 15 points, respectively, although neither could make a deeper impact on the game.
Worse, Perkins' frontline partner Arnold Van Opstal was held scoreless in the first half by Gotladera, who couldn't even find a permanent place in La Salle's rotation before moving to Katipunan.
Ateneo 97 - Ravena 29, Pessumal 21, Gotladera 17, Tolentino 14, Elorde 9, Newsome 7, Apacible 0, Babilonia 0, Capacio 0, T. Ravena 0
La Salle 86 - Perkins 25, Vosotros 18, Teng 15, Van Opstal 10, N. Torres 8, Rivero 4, Andrada 2, Salem 2, Sargent 2, Bolick 0, Montalbo 0, T. Torres 0
Quarterscores: 17-24; 39-37; 61-59; 97-86