by Jonas Terrado
Ateneo’s statement game against Far Eastern University last Wednesday must still be reverberating around the UAAP league like a 10 on the Richter.
It was a game unlike any seen by observers from an Ateneo team that had been dismissed as a lightweight following a 0-3 start.
Credit Kiefer Ravena for the Blue Eagles’ resurgence. He has proven unmistakably that he is the heart and soul of Ateneo. When he was out with an ankle injury, Ateneo was also out hobbling.
But with him back in harness, Ateneo is in full bloom, looking more and more each day as a serious title contender. And this may continue so long as Ravena is healthy.
The former Rookie of the Year has averaged 15.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.4 assists during a five-game winning streak that helped turn their fortunes around.
At the team’s lowest point, Ravena was also there, wearing a protective boot on his right foot, hollering and encouraging his teammates.
Then he returned on the third game and things began to change.
Since then, Ateneo has won six of its next seven games, including Wednesday’s 92-73 rout of league-leading Far Eastern University, a performance that surely made its rivals stand up and notice.
The victory put Ateneo in a tie for third place with archrival La Salle at 6-4.
And what a timely moment for the win to come. The two arch rivals will meet on Sunday in a game that could rival a Gilas-South Korea blockbuster.
For La Salle, this is the time to earn a bit of redemption after years of suffering one defeat after another against the dynastic Ateneo.
Ravena, however, is not looking this game. He is focused on the big picture.
“We’re happy (to be back on winning track) but we are not totally satisfied because our goal is not just to make the Final Four but to get that six-peat,” said Ravena.
His blazing performance apparently is rubbing off to the rest of the Eagles, with Ryan Buenafe, Chris Newsome and point guard Juami Tiongson, all having a consistently good game since the streak.
Even role players like Frank Golla, Vince Tolentino, Von Pessumal and Gwynne Capacio have been producing quality minutes.
Coach Bo Perasol particularly likes his team’s defense.
“I can see even from last year that they are good individual defenders,” he said.
“There is just one thing for us to achieve our objective and it is to play really good defense and how our defense is handled by that good individual defense at yun ang importante.”