Defending champion Ateneo pulled away early and never looked back to pummel rival La Salle, 77-67, in UAAP Season 75 action Saturday at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
Before a crowd of 17,126 fans, Ryan Buenafe scored 24 points and eight rebounds to lead the Blue Eagles to their eighth straight win, tightening their grip on top of the standings.
Kiefer Ravena added 18 points while Nico Salva chipped in 12 for Ateneo.
“One of the big keys of our team is we have balance,” Ateneo coach Norman Black said. “It really takes a lot of effort from the players about setting aside their ego.”
Ateneo got off to a 20-5 start led by Buenafe, who scored eight points in the run, to give the Blue Eagles a 26-10 lead after the first quarter.
But guard Almond Vosotros waxed hot after that, rifling back-to-back three-pointers to open the second quarter. La Salle limited Ateneo to just nine points in the period to keep the Green Archers within six, 35-29, at the half.
La Salle trimmed the deficit to two points, 37-35, at the start of the third quarter, but Buenafe hit a three-pointer and buried two straight baskets, while guard Juami Tiongson scored five quick points late in the third period to widen Ateneo gap to 11, 57-46, after the quarter.
Ateneo led by as much as 12 points in the final quarter, 66-54. La Salle cut the deficit to nine points several times in the quarter, but couldn’t come closer.
Star rookie Jeron Teng exploded for 22 points, while Vosotros added 20 for La Salle, which lost for the fourth time in 10 games to fall into a tie National University at fourth spot.
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