FOR the last time in his collegiate career yesterday, Ateneo star Thirdy Ravena went up the stands, shed tears of joy, and hugged his mother, former volleyball standout Mozzy.
Truly a perfect ending for Ravena and the Blue Eagles.
Boosted by a fiery start and a sustained charge, Ateneo scored an 86-79 decision over gritty University of Santo Tomas to retain the crown in the 82nd UAAP basketball tournament before a sellout crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
In front of 20,198 fans, the 6-foot-2 Ravena anchored the Eagles’ attack with a game-high 17 points, on top of seven rebounds and five assists in his swan song.
Ravena was named finals MVP for the third straight year with averages of 24.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists on 55 percent shooting from the field in the Big Dance.
Sophomore SJ Belangel went 5-of-10 from deep and added 15 markers, while another graduating player in Matt Nieto chipped in 14 markers, six boards, and five boards as Ateneo closed out the best-of-3 titular showdown with a clean sweep 2-0 to complete a three-peat and annex its eight title in the last 12 years and 11th overall.
The Eagles also wrote history with a 16-0 record as they became only the seventh team to complete an unbeaten campaign since the Growling Tigers did the trick with a 14-0 card in 1993.
Ateneo came off a 91-77 victory in Game 1 last Saturday and ended the Cinderella run of UST, which was bidding for its first title in 13 years.
Eagles coach Tab Baldwin said his charges were keen on fulfilling a dream season.
“I could probably talk about this team all day but I won’t. The 16-0 season was really something that we dreamed about. We did not talk a lot about it but I know my players wanted it,” said Baldwin. “It is a dream for us to through the season unblemished.”
Determined to finish off the Tigers, Ateneo came out with guns blazing and took a 31-15 spread early on and a 42-32 lead at the half.
UST showed signs of life and made it a 62-67 game going into the payoff period.
A Sherwin Concepcion triple pulled the Tigers to within 71-75 at the 4:56 mark of the fourth stanza.
Bu the Eagles won’t simply be denied in giving a fitting sendoff to Ravena, twins Matt and Mike Nieto, Isaac Go, and Adrian Wong.
Ravena combined with 6-foot-10 Angelo Kouame of Ivory Coast in a telling 9-3 exchange capped by a Kouame free throw to peg an 84-74 count, only 1:31 left that took the fight out of UST.