Blue Eagles bounce back, clinch Final Four slot

Derailed last time out, Ateneo quickly got its ‘five-peat’ drive back on track.

Getting a much-needed scoring lift from Nico Salva, four-time defending champion Ateneo punched its Final Four ticket–for the 14th straight season–by turning back stubborn Adamson, 79-72, Sunday in the UAAP Season 75 men’s basketball action at the MOA Arena.

A missing link in Ateneo’s past games, the 6-foot-4 Salva drilled in 12 of his team-best 24 points in the payoff period to lead three other teammates with at least 10 markers as the Blue Eagles quickly moved on from a stunning 77-79 defeat inflicted by University of the East last Thursday and improved their league-best record to 10-2.

Towering center Greg Slaughter added 16 points and 12 boards while guard Kiefer Ravena capped his 15-point outing with a crucial lay-up off a steal that clearly took the fight out from the hard-fighting Falcons, who dropped to 2-10.

“Our execution in this game especially down the stretch is much, much better,” stated Ateneo coach Norman Black, who also got 10 big points from reserve guard Nico Elorde. “I’m just happy we didn’t make the mistakes we made last game. The ball movement was much better and everybody’s sharing the ball.”

After posting just eight assists in the first 20 minutes, the Blue Eagles made things easier in the second half by wisely moving the around and finding their open teammates to finish with 19 feeds, six more than their output against the Red Warriors.

“Every loss is a wake-up call for us. It reminds us we’re not there yet. We have to continue working and pushing to get that (title),” stressed Salva, now playing on his fifth and final year.

Eric Camson paced all scorers with a career-high 27 points and gave the Falcons a 71-70 cushion–off a pull-up three over the outstretched arms of Slaughter–with 3:51 left before Salva and Ravena took turns in delivering the goods for the Blue Eagles.

After a split by Cabrera pulled the Falcons closer at 72-74, Ravena made a free throw then Salva soared for a lay-in. Ravena then stole the leather then flew for an unmolested lay-up that pegged the final count.

“Today, Nico’s shots were really falling for us, particularly in the fourth. I think we had a very good fourth quarter,” added Black, whose charges outscored the Falcons 24-13 in the final 10 minutes.


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