Ateneo began the collegiate basketball season on a challenging note escaping with a 55-51 win over hard-fighting Letran Saturday in the opening game of the Fil Oil-Flying V Preseason Cup at the San Juan Arena.
The defending titlist of the tournament nearly squandered a big lead but fortified their defense late in the game to take the win.
Greg Slaughter was at the forefront of Ateneo’s defensive effort with three blocks in the late stages, to go along with his 14 points and 15 rebounds.
Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga said that the Blue Eagles focused on defense, knowing that it was their first game of the season. He took the cudgels for coach Norman Black, who is in the United States for a 10-day coaching clinic.
“Before coach Norman left, one of the things he said was he was sure that our offense will be a bit rusty and not as smooth so we have to emphasize on our defense,” Arespacochaga said. “Of course, it will be better if we played good offense but it was a defensive game for us.”
Letran was able to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter on a three-pointer by Carlo Lituania, but Ravena converted a three-pointer for Ateneo on the next play. Slaughter made two free throws at the 1:31 mark and swatted shots by Letran’s Kevin Racal and Jonathan Belorio to take the victory.
Jam Cortes had 15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks while Racal added 10 points and nine rebounds for the Knights.
Letran trailed by 10 points at the half, 31-21, but steadily climbed their way back cutting the deficit to three points, 45-42, entering the fourth quarter.
But the Knights could not convert after pulling to within 52-51 after Racal’s fastbreak lay-up which he could have tied had he completed the three-point play.
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