It looks like I was wrong about the momentum.
This morning, when I posted my Finals preview, I wrote that the FEU Tamaraws had the momentum going into Game One, since they had a great end of the season, having taken away the twice-to-beat advantage of Adamson Falcons.
Well, the basketball aficionado I talked to had the right of it, that everything gets thrown out the window come the Finals, as the Ateneo Blue Eagles shook off a shaky start, and came out strong in the second half to beat down the Tamaraws, 82-64, to take Game One of the Finals.
It seemed that the Blue Eagles were rusty both in offense and defense in the first half, as the Tamaraws executed pick and pop after pick and pop, and zoomed to a 10-point lead in the middle of the second quarter. Fortunately, Ateneo found its legs and its defense down the stretch of the first half, and managed to end the half tied to FEU, 33-33.
In the second half, whatever adjustments Ateneo coach Norman Black made during the halftime break paid off, as the Blue Eagles leaned on their championship experience, and Ateneo took the lead for good in the middle of the third quarter, and never looked back.
Whatever composure FEU had during the first half disappeared with the exception of guard Terence Romeo, who continued to score throughout the second half. The rest of the Tamaraws were shackled and hampered into missing shots and turning the ball over, and fell further behind.
During the final quarter, Ateneo continued to pour it on, and the lead ballooned to as much as 20 points. The Tamaraws continued to stumble, and, having been stymied from driving inside by the Blue Eagles' stifling defense, had to content themselves with 3-pointers down the stretch.
Blue Eagle forward Nico Salva had a monster game, scoring 24 points, being perfect from both the field and the foul line. He was ably supported by the other starters (Kirk Long, Kiefer Ravena, Emman Monfort, and Greg Slaughter), as well as quality minutes by the bench, especially JP Erram, who has played sparingly this season.
Game Two is on Tuesday, and expect Ateneo to try to close it out and clinch its fourth straight men's basketball crown. The FEU Tamaraws, on the other hand, have to reach down deep in order to attempt to extend the series to a third game. Here's hoping, though, that the Blue Eagles don't let up the pressure, and win on Tuesday.