That’s what the Ateneo Blue Eagles achieved in Season 82. They defeated the UST Growling Tigers 86-79 in Game 2 of their Finals series to win their 16th straight game, and in the process, take home their third straight UAAP title. The Blue Eagles are the first team in UAAP history to go 16-0. They’re also the first team in the Final Four era to bag two three-peats.
After torching UST in Game 1, Thirdy Ravena struggled with his shot in Game 2. He finished the game shooting only 7/20 for 17 points. But he got those points at a crucial stretch in the game. Ravena stayed productive even if his shot was falling, collaring seven boards and dishing out five dimes in his final UAAP game.
With Ravena struggling, SJ Belangel was the savior of Ateneo in this game. He scored 15 points, all on three-pointers, hitting big shot after big shot to keep Ateneo ahead. Matt Nieto also played big in his final UAAP game. He was his usual steady self with 14 points and five assists. Rhenz Abando led UST with 16 points in three triples.
Early in the game, it looked like Ateneo would once again run away with an easy win. Even with Ravena missing his shots and Angelo Kouame stuck to the bench with foul trouble, the Blue Eagles were still able to build a sizeable lead in the first period. It was the bench mob that took over the scoring duties as Belangel, Isaac Go, Matt Nieto and Matthew Daves all teamed up to put Ateneo up by as much as 16 points.
The Growling Tigers didn’t allow the Blue Eagles to take the game that easily. Behind their MVP, Chabi Chabi Yo, they cut the deficit down to single digits in the second period. They made their move to try and take over the game late in the third period. Abando and Mark Nonoy carried the UST offense during that stretch, scoring all the points in an 8-3 run that cut the deficit down to just three. UST carried that momentum to the early part of the fourth as back-to-back hits brought them to as close as one point.
But that was their last stand. Belangel silenced the Growling Tigers with a booming triple from the right wing to put the Blue Eagles up by four. After that shot, Ravena checked in an began to dominate the game. He started with a midrange jumper to increase Ateneo’s lead up to six. He followed that up with an assist to Belangel for another triple. Ravena then bullied his way to the hoop for his next two baskets to put Ateneo up by eight points.
The Blue Eagles snatched back momentum from the Growling Tigers and never looked back. Kouame scored on an offensive put back and an exclamation point alley-oop slam off a pass by Nieto. That put Ateneo up by 12 heading to the final two minutes, enough of a cushion to hold off UST and close out the series.
Ravena was named Finals MVP for his performance throughout the series. He averaged 24 points, six rebounds and four assists in two games. He has now won three straight Finals MVPs, the only player to achieve that feat in the Final Four era.