The Redeem Team: Eaglets Fall And Rise Against The Greens

The Ateneo de Manila High School Blue Eaglets continued their Season 76 roller-coaster ride with contrasting results against the UAAP’s two green teams – the FEU-FERN Baby Tamaraws and the De La Salle Zobel Junior Archers.

Ateneo was favored to win its match against lower-seeded FEU, but their 32 turnovers doomed them. More than a week afterwards, however, they bounced back in a way by scraping past the Junior Archers to level their card at 2 wins and 2 losses.

Thirdy Ravena flies high as the Ateneo Blue Eaglets
shift into high gear.


How can a team win after turning the ball over 32 times?

You got me.

And, apparently, the Ateneo Blue Eaglets weren’t able to find an answer to that question either, especially after losing to the FEU-FERN Baby Tamaraws in overtime last July 10, 2013.

To say that this result was surprising is an understatement, since the Eaglets beat the Baby Tams quite handily in the preseason and this post-Pingoy version of FEU-FERN wasn’t exactly bursting at the seams with depth. This is not to say that the Baby Tams are pansies, of course (they’re a projected Final Four contender, in fact), but let’s just say that it would have to take a really bad day for Ateneo to lose to them.

Aaand, cuing Murphy’s Law, of course the bad day just had to happen.

The game started out tight, with Ateneo posting a slim 15-12 bubble late into the first period after a Mike Nieto freebie. The Baby Tams, however, quickly repossessed the lead after a trey from JS Domingo and a twinner from Wendell Comboy. That ignited a 19-2 blast in favor of FEU that ended only with a Jolo Mendoza conversion midway into the second canto. At that point, the Baby Tams were ahead, 31-19, and even though the gap would be trimmed to just 10 by the half, it was clear that momentum was NOT with Ateneo.

After two periods, the Loyolans had already accumulated 16 turnovers. FEU, on the other hand, had only 9, and they would commit only 7 more for the rest of the match.

Behind Nieto, Mendoza, and FIBA U18 3x3 World Championships-bound Thirdy Ravena, the Eaglets ate into the deficit early in the second half, knocking on the doors at 38-39 with a little more than 5 minutes left in the third.

Oh but those Tamaraws just kept on coming.

Behind Comboy and the Domingo twins, coach Mike Oliver’s boys kept the Eaglets at bay with timely hits, never really able to pull away but never fully relinquishing control.

Ateneo eventually locked FEU up in the final five minutes of regulation, limiting the Green & Gold to just 3 points in that stretch. Coach Joe Silva’s boys also hit 8 free throws in those last few minutes, forcing overtime and a chance to steal win #2.

Coach Silva was probably hoping someone would rise up and carry the team in the extra inning, but, instead of an Atenean, it was Marvin Lee of FEU that shone brightest in OT.

With most of Ateneo’s defense focused on Comboy and the twins, Lee tossed in 9 of his 17 markers in the extra five minutes, completing an improbable FEU-FERN win and sending the Ateneans crashing to their second loss.

The key stat? Again, it was the THIRTY TWO friggin’ turnovers.


FEU 82 – Lee 17, Domingo Jj. 16, Comboy 16, Domingo Js. 13, Escoto 9, Completo 4, Aquino 3, Lumba 2, Cano 1, Beines 1, Tabudlo 0, Runbaoa 0, Harrow 0, Ardiente 0.
Ateneo 78 – Ravena 27, Nieto Mi. 17, Mendoza 13, Magpoc 9, Black 7, Escaler 3, Calilung 2, Salandanan 0, Ramos 0, Nieto Ma. 0, Mamuyac 0, Jose 0.
QS: 17-15, 37-27, 56-51, 67-67, 82-78 (OT).
Notable Performers:
Wendell Comboy (FEU) – 16pts, 9rebs, 3asts, 3stls
JJ Domingo (FEU) – 16pts, 3rebs, 2asts, 1stl
Thirdy Ravena (AHS) – 27pts, 13rebs, 4asts, 2stls


Needless to say, things weren’t looking good for the Blue Eaglets prior to this game. They had been underachieving in their 1-2 start to the season, while their prospective opponents, the Junior Archers, had been overachieving with an immaculate 4-0 slate that included a big win over FEU-FERN.

To compound Ateneo’s woes, Matt Nieto, fresh from a gold-medal-clinching campaign in the 2013 SEABA U16 tournament in Indonesia, was nursing a high ankle sprain similar to what was hounding Blue Eagle superstar Kiefer Ravena. With Matt unable to play for Ateneo in this pivotal match-up, coach Silava had to turn to Miguel “Brix” Ramos, Enzo Joson, and Jolo Mendoza to run the show.

As it turned out, those guys were able to pass with flying colors, while Matt’s own brother, Big Mike Nieto, exploded with a herculean double-double.

Mike Nieto collars the rebound against two Junior Archers.

Like their previous game, Ateneo started the game seemingly overwhelmed by nerves. Despite having a considerably deeper team than Zobel, the Ateneans just couldn’t mount the fast start that had been a hallmark of their play in the preseason. Behind pint-sized wunderkind Renzo Subido and sweet-shooting swingman Quinito Banzon (apparently the son of true blue Atenean Raul Banzon), the Junior Archers kept in-step with the Eaglets in the first period, trailing by just three points, 18-21.

The second quarter was a seesaw battle of runs from both squads. Ateneo opened with a 6-0 spurt behind Thirdy Ravena, but they couldn’t sustain the momentum as Zobel’s shooters continued to find the bottom of the net. Every time Ateneo would go up by 6 or 8 points, coach Boris Aldeguer’s wards just found a way to hit their targets and remain in the thick of the fight. The first half ended with the Katipunan quintet up, 42-36.

Not surprisingly, Ravena was leading the pack with 13 points and 6 rebounds, while Big Mike was playing solidly, already registering 8 markers and 9 boards. It was a big help that Zobel’s own big man, Jose Maldinger, was saddled by foul trouble (as he is wont to be) and that the Zobel frontline was not exactly it’s most outstanding element. An alarming fact, however, was how Ateneo had already turned the ball over 10 times, while forcing only 4 errors from their foes.

The scoring was there, but the Ateneans continued to be careless with the basketball.

And that continued even till the very end of the game.

With Big Mike, Thirdy, and graduating PF Jme Escaler leading the way, the Eaglets started the second half humming, outscoring Zobel 10-2 in the first 4 minutes to erect a 52-38 advantage. Finally, the score reflected a bit more accurately the true difference in depth between the two teams, but was the game over at this point?

Not by a long shot.

Coach Boris banked on the contributions of Subido, Banzon, Aljun Melecio, and Miguel Cabarrus to keep within striking distance and fan their hopes of a fifth straight win. Zobel trailed by just 6 entering the fourth, 56-50.

But, again, the Ateneans responded with strength, playing efficiently for most of the final frame and outgunning the Junior Archers for a 73-58 lead with under 2 minutes to go. The terrific troika of Nieto, Ravena, and Mendoza presided over that romp, with Aaron Black sneaking in 2 points of his own.

A 15-point lead with about 100 seconds to go should be a sure win, right?

Not if you’re talking about these Eaglets. Just ask coach Silva, who was scratching and shaking his head at every turnover and “bad call” in the final minute or so.

Behind resilient full-court pressure, the Archers forced one Blue-hued error after another and scored the last 10 points of the match. The final spread actually could’ve been much closer had Banzon not missed 3 free throws and had the Greenies made crisper passes in that stretch. Heck, if they played their cards right, the La Sallians might have even won.

That’s how horrific the last minute was for Ateneo.

A win is a win, of course, but I doubt if the coaching staff was beaming with pride at this particular victory. The same sicknesses that plagued them against FEU-FERN were visible here (Ateneo turned the ball over a total of 29 times!), and if not for their late double-digit lead they could’ve been forced to swallow another what-could-have-been.

Still, the Ateneans are now, thankfully, at 2-2 going into a relatively light schedule ahead. Should the Eaglets stay true to form, they should finish the first round at 5-2 and gain more than enough momentum for a stupendous second round.

But, man, those turnovers…


Ateneo 73 – Ravena 25, Nieto M. 19, Escaler 8, Mendoza 7, Black 6, Ramos 5, Joson G. 2, Mamuyac 1, Salandanan 0, Magpoc 0, Joson L. 0, Jose 0, Calilung 0.
Zobel 68 – Subido 25, Banzon 22, Melecio 10, Maldinger 4, Romero 2, Cabarrus 2, Abanilla 2, Sajulga 1, Quintos 1, Paraiso 0, Isaac 0.
QS: 21-18, 42-36, 56-50, 73-68.
Notable Performers:
Thirdy Ravena (AHS) – 25pts, 10rebs, 2asts, 1stl, 1blk
Mike Nieto (AHS) – 19pts, 24rebs, 2asts
Renzo Subido (DLSZ) – 25pts, 3 triples, 2rebs, 2asts, 2stls

All images are by Arvin Lim/ 
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2 Comment

Despite Zobel's lost, I am truly grateful to you, Mr. Enzo Flojo, for being OBJECTIVE and HONEST of your account of this game. You are just commendable. I did not expect this article to be written by an Atenean.

This comment has been removed by the author. - Hapus