KIEFER Ravena brought Ateneo out of the jaws of defeat, propelling the Eagles to a 66-63 win over De La Salle on Saturday and into the finals of the UAAP men's basketball tournament at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Ravena contributed a career-high 28 points, including 12 straight in the fourth quarter, as the Blue Eagles fought their way back from a Green Archers lead that reached as many as 11.
Ateneo faces University of Santo Tomas for the crown in a rematch of the 2006 finals won by the Tigers. Game One is set next Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
UST claimed the first finals berth with a 63-57 win over National University.
The Eagles flew with wobbly wings until Ravena was given orders to retake the pilot’s seat and the young guard got the job done, shooting four-of-six from three-point range, including two in the Blue Eagles’ 9-0 run that put them ahead, 59-55.
“Basically, in that fourth quarter, we put the ball in (Ravena) hands,” Ateneo coach Norman Black said. “We just ran our pick and rolls… We put the ball to Kiefer and we had Greg and Nico setting screens for him.
“He just took over the game and that’s what great players do. They take over the game when the game is on the line particularly in big moments, and he stepped up to the plate.”
Led by Yutien Andrada, the Green Archers made the series interesting, grabbing a 49-38 lead at the end of the third quarter.
La Salle even took the lead late in the game on a running shot by Almond Vosotros, 62-61, with one minute and 11 seconds remaining. But Ravena teed up Ryan Buenafe for a wide open triple at the right corner with 55.6 seconds to go.
Ravena nearly became the goat when he was called for an unsportsmanlike foul while trying to stop Jeron Teng from scoring a fastbreak play with Ateneo on top, 64-62. Teng, however, failed to tie the game when he missed his second free throw, then turned the ball over in the ensuing play.
With three seconds remaining, Buenafe converted two free throws for a three-point lead and La Salle’s Norbert Torres muffed the potential game-tying triple.
Andrada had 17 points including numerous undergoal stabs that the Blue Eagles couldn’t stop, while Vosotros added 14 points and Teng 12.
UST won its first round encounter with Ateneo but the Eagles won their second round match-up.
Ateneo (66) – Ravena 28, Salva 12, Buenafe 10, Tiongson 5, Slaughter 4, Chua 4, Sumalinog 3, Pessumal 0, Gonzaga 0, Golla 0, Elorde 0.
DLSU (63) – Andrada 17, Vosotros 14, Teng 12, N. Torres 6, T. Torres 5, Tampus 4, Van Opstal 3, Mendoza 2, Webb 0, Revilla 0.
Quarterscores: 14-12; 31-26; 38-47; 66-63.