The UAAP: Season 77: The King Eagle Flies HIGH!

Kiefer Ravena of Ateneo torched UE with a career-high
38 points in a thrilling overtime win for the Blue Eagles
(Image from: GMA Network)

The Blue Eagles knew what awaited them if they finished the first round of play with a win over the University of the East Red Warriors; solo first place atop the standings after most critics projected them to be in the middle of the pack (or missing out in the Final Four) due to this being a "rebuilding" year. Well after 7 games, the Eagles are not in the middle and definitely not at the bottom. Being at the top feels so very good but that feeling should not last too long since another 7 games await them.

Getting that elusive 6th win almost did not happen. After 10 minutes of play, the UE Red Warriors held a commanding 18-point lead over the Ateneans. UE employed a full-court press early that befuddled and confused the Eagles. The Red Warriors were up 9-2 within 2 minutes of the game. Perhaps the Eagles weren't ready for the press or maybe UE was just that good at the beginning. In any case, ADMU gave the ball away numerous times and to make things worse, they could not grab a rebound when UE failed to convert shots.

Charles Mammie dominated the Ateneo front-line early and at one point, he had more points and rebounds compared to Ateneo's entire team. This appeared like a blowout in favor of the Red Warriors. Everything was clicking for UE. Roi Sumang was spectacular with multiple drives to the paint while Mammie was on the brink of a double-double while still in the first half. UE's biggest lead stood at 21 points while Arvin Tolentino struggled making a field goal, Kiefer Ravena started slow and the rest of the Eagles were shooting blanks. However, a nicely-timed full-court press by ADMU before the end of the first half trimmed the Red Warriors' lead down to a more manageable 13 points.

Come third period, the Eagles started strong early and their pressure defense intensified. They forced a couple of turnovers that led to easy layups. A quick 8 points from the King Eagle got the Blue Eagles within 6 points, 44-38. The momentum was shifting to Ateneo but UE had an answer. Roi Sumang and Pedrito Galanza  worked with Charles Mammie to push back their lead to double digits. Kiefer and Chris Newsome were starting to make shots and Von Pessumal also made his presence felt with a couple of threes. Still, UE ended the 3rd quarter up by 9 after Sumang nailed a three.

In the last canto, the Eagles decided to go small by removing their traditional center and playing Arvin Tolentino at the 5 spot. It was a very risky decision especially since Mammie was having a superb game and the Warriors were leading the rebounding battle. Ateneo kept inching closer but UE always made crucial shots. The Warriors erected a 13-point led with about 5 minutes to go. It appeared that ADMU would receive their 2nd loss. Key word: "appeared". What transpired in the final 5 minutes of the 4th period was exhilarating for any basketball fan.

Ateneo mounted a final push which was led by Ravena, Pessumal and Newsome. That trio nailed crucial threes that cut UE's lead to just 3 points with over 3 minutes to go. Arvin Tolentino missed all his shots but he played excellent defense on Mammie who missed numerous easy shots near the rim. Ateneo routinely collapsed their defense to help defend the paint and they limited second chance opportunities for the Red Warriors. The seemingly insurmountable UE lead was within striking distance.

The MOA arena was deafening with each passing possession. Ateneo and UE traded clutch baskets. Galanza hit a tough layup and nailed a three but Pessumal made a three in return, then Sumang made a fade-away jumper and Newsome completed an "and 1" which closed the gap to just 2 points for UE. The ball belonged to UE with under 40 ticks to go but they committed a turnover. Possession to the Eagles with a lot of time and the chance to tie the game. One guess who was going to handle the ball and take the shot, the King Eagle.

Kiefer dribbled down the right side of the court and took a contested jumper which he calmly made to tie the score at 80-80. That was the first tie since 2-2. There was no doubt who was taking the shot and the made jumper was simply a formality. But wait, UE and Roi Sumang had over 10 seconds to take the last shot and win the game. Sumang has been sizzling the whole game and his outside shot was falling. He took it upon himself to win the game. Sumang called his number and ran an isolation play on the left side of the court. He was very confident with his jumper that he elected to take a tough, contested three instead of driving to the paint. Sumang's shot hit nothing but air and it completely missed the rim. Season 77 finally had its first overtime game for the year. What.A.Game!

In overtime, ADMU managed to grab a one-point lead albeit only for a short time. Sumang and Galanza kept UE ahead until Kiefer Ravena decided to take over near the end. Mr. King Eagle soared over Charles Mammie with a pretty floater that gave the Blue Eagles a 3-point lead. On their next possession, Kiefer soared even higher with a long three (off the dribble to boot) that was highly contested but it went in nonetheless. That basket gave Ateneo a 6-point lead with 59 seconds left. Game over right? Dead wrong.

Sumang went back on the attack with a three that sliced ADMU's lead in half. Next, Ravena was called for an offensive foul which led to a Mammie uncontested dunk. Ateneo was just up 1 with UE fouling intentionally. Kiefer went to the stripe and uncharacteristically made only 1 of 2 which game UE a chance to tie or take the lead. This time, Roi Sumang opted to drive to the paint instead of launching a jumper.

What happened next could be debated for hours. Sumang drove to the hole while three players from Ateneo defended him. Sumang's attempt ended up getting blocked (by Ravena and/or Tolentino). Consequently, the ball hit him on the back before going out of bounds which gave Ateneo the possession. From my vantage point near the right baseline on UE's side of the court, the block shot looked clean BUT if a foul was called on Ateneo, it would have been okay and very understandable. In fact, I was quite surprised that no foul was called. There was some body contact on Sumang and that could have been interpreted as a foul. Unfortunately for UE and their fans, no such foul call was made and the ballgame went to Ateneo.

Let me be clear. This was not a choke job by Sumang and the Red Warriors. This was more of a comeback by Kiefer and the Blue Eagles. Ateneo had more poise and clutch shooting at the end. Of course, Kiefer Ravena had a lot to do with that. The best player in the UAAP and MVP of the first half simply showed his determination and gave the Blue Eagles one big fight. Ateneo is hoping that the King Eagle can continue flying high for the whole season. #OBF #AMDG

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3 Comment

It was Tolentino who blocked Sumang. With matching scowling at Sumang pa after making that game saving play.


Actually, the winner there was the refs who interchange the game, and not the teams.