The UE Red Warriors obviously have a problem with finishing strong.
After keeping the game close through two quarters, the Warriors fell to their fourth straight loss, 68-51, to the Ateneo Blue Eagles. Despite keeping the score close and ending the first half just down by 2, the Warriors fell apart in the third quarter, being outscored 17-5.
By the fourth quarter, Ateneo coach Norman Black pulled out his starters, and gave his bench the chance to gain some well-needed experience. Key players Kiefer Ravena, Greg Slaughter, and Nico Salva, if I'm not mistaken, didn't have any need to return to the game, as the second squad, composed of Nico Elorde, Ryan Buenafe, J.P. Erram, Frank Golla and Tonino Gonzaga ably kept the Warriors from ever coming close. By the last few minutes, both benches had apparently been emptied, and Ateneo rookies and sophomores continued with the mop-up operations. One of my former students and national youth squad standout Von Pessumal even had a driving lay-up that showed the promise of a bright future on the team.
On the UE side, starters Chris Javier and Roy Sumang had good stats, but were not backed up by their teammates, which was one of the reasons that led to their loss.
The long season continues for UE, as its players and coach struggle to figure out a way to win. Given the tough field in the UAAP competition, that may be a difficult task.
With the win, Ateneo moves into solo first, and will face the FEU Tamaraws to close out the first half of the tournament. Given the way both teams have been playing, it looks to be an exciting match-up.