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UAAP: Buenafe rises as Ateneo defeats UST

September 15, 2012 6:18pm

Ryan Buenafe (left) tries to collar a loose ball over UST's Kevin Ferrer and Karim Abdul. Photo by KC Cruz

(Updated 9:20pm) Big-time players come to play during big games.

Buenafe stayed true to his reputation as someone who excels in big spots, completing an and-one play after a controversial goaltending call, as the Ateneo Blue Eagles avenged their first round loss to the UST Growling Tigers, 68-66, in front of a sellout crowd of 16,776, at the Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday.

“We couldn’t get Slaughter free in the post, so we freed up Ryan. It was a lucky play,” said Coach Norman Black, as Ateneo heads to the Final Four for the 14th straight year.

The Ateneo Blue Eagles now clinch the top spot in the standings, crowning themselves with a 12-2 win-loss card. UST on the other hand fell to 9-4, a half-game behind the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, putting them third in the standings.

The 6’2” former San Sebastian Staglet Buenafe glided through the UST defense and hurled what would be the deciding basket of the game. The referees counted the basket as Karim Abdul belatedly blocked the shot, which was on its way down, preventing officials from being able to rule if it was a two-shot foul or an and-one play. By ruling it a goaltend, Buenafe got two points and a charity, which he sank to arrive at the final score.

Kiefer Ravena generated 18 crucial points for the league’s number one team, making game-changing baskets that turned the tide Ateneo’s way. In one particular play, he dunked the ball on the break with 6’8” Karim Abdul chasing after him.

“Actually nung na steal ko, I wanted to dunk it already. Coach Norman gets mad at me because I miss in practice. We were playing with low intensity so I wanted to take it very strong,” said Ravena.

Aljon Mariano, who had been struggling to establish his offense all game, failed to convert the three-pointer that would have given UST the twice-to-beat advantage heading to the Final Four.

“Although Nico [Salva] was having a bad game offensively, he did a good job defending Mariano,” said Ravena of his teammate.

Ateneo upped the ante in the fourth period, sailing to within double digits after a stab by Nico Elorde and an aerial play by Buenafe, 56-43. UST scratched back, tearing through the lead slowly after three's by Kevin Ferrer and Clark Bautista knotted the game at 61-all. The comebacking Bautista was not yet done, as he hit another jumper at the 1:23 mark to put UST ahead, 63-61.

Ravena responded at the other end with a drive to tie the game at 63 with 1:11 to go, before Aljon Mariano split from the line to retake the lead for the Tigers. When Ateneo regained possession, Ravena missed a corner jumper, but Juami Tiongson snatched the rebound and buried a jumper from the free throw line to put Ateneo ahead, 65-64, with 33 seconds remaining.

A key steal by Buenafe gave the Eagles a fresh possession, that lead the Tigers to fouling. But off an inbounds play, UST stole the ball from Buenafe, as Abdul pulled up for a tough jumper to give UST the lead, 66-65, with seven seconds remaining.

Buenafe drove in quick where he drew a foul, as his attempt was counted with the referees slapping Abdul with a goaltending violation. With 5.1 seconds remaining, Buenafe hit the extra free throw to give Ateneo a two-point advantage.

In the end, Pido Jarencio went with Mariano. off a timeout Despite torching the Eagles back in round one, the forward couldn't hit this time.

In a batttle of scoring machines, Kiefer Ravena (left) and his team emerged triumphant over Jeric Teng and his Growling Tigers. KC Cruz

Former Xavier School standout Jeric Teng unleashed eight quick points in the first quarter to put his up Tigers 10-4 over the defending champions, until fifth-year forward Oping Sumalinog curled in the corner for a triple, 10-7. Slaughter’s move in the high post trimmed the lead to a point, 10-9, but UST shifted its focus inside to net four easy points from Abdul and Mariano. Coach Norman Black called for time with a little under four minutes left in the first quarter, after a basket by Abdul put the Tigers up by seven points, 16-9.

After the brief respite, Coach Black fielded forward Ryan Buenafe, who injected quick offense for the Eagles, scoring six straight points. Abdul countered with a basket inside to cap the first quarter at 18-15.

The Growling Tigers denied easy entry passes inside to Slaughter, which resulted in turnovers for the Blue Crew and fast break baskets for UST. Ateneo’s defense refused to let up though, also causing the Tigers to settle for midrange jumpers, which did not fall easily.  

Still, the Eagles found themselves within a point twice, first on a Greg Slaughter slam, 27-26, then after Ravena crashed the rim and Karim Abdul’s defense, 31-30. UST still manged to extended their lead slightly after a basket inside by Abdul, 33-30. And then the Tigers got another break when Slaughter's last shot did not count, as the clock sounded the halftime break, UST up 33-30.

The Hail Mary Squad kicked off the second half with a 9-4 run, highlighted by a four-point play off a corner three-pointer by Sumalinog. That swung the lead in favor of Ateneo, 41-37, as the Growling Tigers went cold from the field, missing their jumpers and three-pointers, while the Eagles regained their confidence from their team play.

Then it was Juami Tiongson's turn to run rampant, as UST's half court defensive sets were broken apart by the wily point guard, who emptied his arsenal to insert nine quick points for the blue and white. After Tiongson’s last lay-up, the Blue Eagles had their biggest lead of the period at nine points, 50-41, which they protected till the end of the third quarter, 52-43, after free throws from Slaughter.

The Tigers outrebounded the Blue Eagles, 42-39, and the Espana-based team made the most of Ateneo’s 19 turnovers, swiping 14 steals and converting 24 turnover points. The Blue Eagles however, countered at the line, making 14 out of 18 freebies. UST in contrast, didn't approach the foul line at all, until the fourth period. The Black and Gold also struggled from three-point territory, normally a strength of theirs, flubbing 18 out of 23 tries.

Ravena tallied 18 points for the Eagles, followed by Tiongson with 13, and Buenafe with 11. Greg Slaughter was limited to 10 points as UST's defense keyed in on the 7'0" center, effectively doubling him, and forcing him to rely on jumpers outside ten feet of the rim. In fact, his only scores up close were off a dunk, and off a drive to the rim.

Abdul notched 22 points while the older Teng made 12 markers. - RAF, GMA News

The scores:

AdMU – Ravena 18, Tiongson 13, Buenafe 11, Slaughter 10, Sumalinog 7, Salva 6, Elorde 3, Gonzaga 0, Chua 0, Golla 0

UST – Abdul 22, Teng 12, Mariano 9, Fortuna 8, Ferrer 8, Bautista 7, Vigil 0, Pe 0, Afuang 0, Lo 0

Quarter scoring: 15-18, 30-33, 52-43, 68-66

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