By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles officially began its redemption season and earned a hard-fought win against the revamped Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws, 79-70, during the Sunday schedule of the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament.
It was a game of runs as the Tamaraws proved they got enough firepower to match the Blue Eagles but Ateneo’s championship experience and composure showed in the much-needed crucial minutes in the fourth quarter.
The Blue Eagles looked to blow the game wide-open after immediately taking a commanding 24-14 lead after the first quarter.
However, an uncharacteristic meltdown took place on the side of the Blue Eagles after going scoreless for five straight minutes of the second period.
During Ateneo’s five-minute scoring drought, the Tamaraws found their shooting stroke and went for a 16-0 run that helped them retake the lead, 30-24.
Shooting guard Chris Koon finally ended Ateneo’s shooting woes and scored their first basket of the second frame off a wide-open perimeter set shot.
FEU continued to pour in the attack and tallied 36 total points after two quarters while the Blue Eagles only scored six points in the last four minutes.
When Ateneo needed someone to put up points on board, sophomore guard Forthsky Padrigao answered the call for coach Tab Baldwin and carried the Blue Eagles’ offense at the start of the third quarter.
Padrigao went unconscious and hit trey after trey that gave the Blue Eagles the lead back, 42-41. However, the Tamaraws always had answers courtesy of huge baskets from L-Jay Gonzales who kept FEU within striking distance.
Ateneo then went on a scoring frenzy at the start of the final quarter and quickly jumped to a 10-point lead, 60-50, off consecutive baskets from Padrigao, Ange Kouame, and Dave Ildefonso.
The Tamaraws failed to retake the lead and let the Blue Eagles establish a 12-point lead, 71-59, After a Koon layup in the fast break.
Padrigao led the Blue Eagles with 19 big points built from three three-pointers including seven assists, six rebounds, and two steals.
“Scrappy, for sure. We got the typical FEU fight, they beat us to the ball, a lot of loose balls, a lot of rebounds, they outhustled us. But in the fourth quarter, we found some energy reserves and we started getting those balls and started getting the rebounds,” said coach Baldwin after the game.