Ravena to the rescue as Blue Eagles survive Green Archers

Welcome to the “Kiefer Ravena Show.”

With four-time defending champion Ateneo stretched to the limit by archrival La Salle, Ravena rose up to the occasion and turned the Smart-Araneta Coliseum into his own playground, leading the Blue Eagles to a hard-earned 66-63 victory Saturday and to their fifth consecutive finals appearance in the UAAP Season 75 men’s basketball action.

Before a crowd of 18,461clad in blue and green, Ravena put on an jaw-dropping fourth quarter performance to help Ateneo overcome an 11-point deficit and forge a titanic finals clash with University of Santo Tomas, which turned back host National University 63-57 earlier.

Despite failing to crack the Mythical Team this season, Ravena proved he’s still one of the league’s big-time players, pumping in 16 of his personal-best 28 points in the crunch as he single-handedly pull the Eagles from the jaws of defeat in the face of the Green Archers’ superb plays.

“We just put the ball in his hands,” noted Ateneo coach Norman Black of his prized sophomore guard who also had 12 rebounds and seven assists in an efficient 29 minutes of play. “He just took over the game and that’s what great players do.”

“Sinabi ko lang sa sarili ko na ‘Ayokong magpatalo.’Tulong-tulong kami in the last six minutes and we just stuck to it. La Salle gave us a great fight but we stood up to the occasion. We have a chance to make it to the finals so we grab it na,” noted the 5-foot-11 Ravena, who certainly gave his mother Mozzy a fitting birthday present.

Despite getting a sub-par performance from center Greg Slaughter, who only had four points, the Blue Eagles managed to stay alive, thanks to Ravena’s superb exploits that were preserved by Ryan Buenafe’s clutch plays.

Lanky Yutien Andrada fired a personal-high of 17 points–mostly coming from inside forays–on top of six rebounds while Almond Vosotros collected 14 and rookie Jeron Teng had 12 but those proved not enough to help the Archers force a knockout match.

With Andrada getting scrappy underneath, the Green Archers broke away with a 14-5 onslaught to build a whopping 49-38 lead.

Greg Slaughter finally made his first bucket–off a tip dunk–at the 9:28 mark of the fourth, though La Salle still held a 51-41 lead off another Andrada inside incursion.

Then Ravena simply took over.

The former Rookie of the Year turned into a one-man wrecking machine, personally erasing that 41-51 deficit with 12 straight points to fuel an 18-4 run that put Ateneo on top 59-55 with 3:39 left.

The Archers, however, uncorked a 7-2 counter-attack–capped by a Vosotros lay-up–to seize the lead anew at 62-61 but Ravena found a wide-open Buenafe, who drained a corner trey for a 64-62 lead.

Ravena nearly went from hero to goat as he was called for an unsportsmanlike foul after grabbing a speeding Teng, but the Archer rookie split his charities that pulled them within 63-64 with 15.6 seconds left.

Taking matters into his own hands, Teng drove strong to the basket but lsot control of the ball, sending the possession back to the Blue Eagles as the Green Archer crowd groaned.

Two made charities by Buenafe off a Vostros foul pegged the final count and the Ateneans erupted in celebration afer Norbert Torres’s desperation three clanged off the rim.

“We were just coaching play by play. We just changed our defense and good thing it worked. In the fourth, we played god defense in the last six minutes,” noted Black.

UST tactician Pido Jarencio made his coaching debut a rousing one in 2006 by pulling the rug from under Black and his favored Blue Eagles in three games.
So the American mentor expects nothing but another exciting match-up with the Filipino coach, saying: “It’s going to a great and exciting series. UST is a very well-rounded team.”

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