MAKATI CITY – Defending champion Centro Escolar University stayed perfect and survived its toughest challenge yet against Our Lady of Fatima University, 81-80, in continuing action from the 15th National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) basketball tournament at the Makati Coliseum Monday (September 14). Later in the day, Saint Clare College of Caloocan and Rizal Technological University also maintained their undefeated slates by beating separate opponents.
JK Casino hit a triple to tie the game, 78-78, and O’Neil Arim provided the marginal free throw with 15 seconds on the clock, 79-78. Arim nearly turned from hero to goat as he immediately fouled Grevanni Rublico with nine seconds remaining.
A former CEU Scorpion, Rublico missed both his free throws and the rebound went to Rodrigue Ebondo who was quickly fouled and coolly made his free throws, 81-78. Joseph Marquez tried to force overtime but his triple missed and Benjie Jimenez tipped in the offensive rebound at the buzzer for the final score.
It was a tough win for the Scorpions who had to rally from as much as 15 points down. The Phoenix banked on their sizzling three-point shooting in the first half that saw them hit eight out of 18 to push them to a 47-34 edge at the break.
Suddenly, the Phoenix could not hit from the outside as the Scorpions made their move. Alvin Abundo hit a triple to give CEU their first taste of the lead since the opening period, 67-66.
Abundo finished with five triples and led the Scorpions of Coach Edgar Macaraya with 23 points on top of eight rebounds and three assists for Player of the Game honors. Ebondo likewise had a monster output of 22 points and 16 rebounds.
Jerome Juanico and Romyl Jornacion hit a pair of triples each in the first half but failed to find one in the second but still went on to pace the Phoenix with 18 and 12 markers respectively. Fatima could only muster one triple in the second half courtesy of Paul John Pineda.
Saint Clare finally unveiled new recruit Aris Dionisio and Bulacan native quickly impressed as he saved the Saints from the upset axe against Philippine Christian University, 89-78. The Saints’ cause hit a snag when center Jeffakins Aguara was ejected from the game for taking a fighting stance against Dolphin Dexter Mescallado who gave up a hard foul with three minutes to play.
The ensuing technical free throws and ball possession allowed PCU to close in, 72-77. Jonathan Ibarra then hit a crucial basket followed by back-to-back field goals by Dionisio that restored Saint Clare’s twin digit lead with 1:26 to play, 83-72.
Bong Managuelod came off the bench in the first period and unloaded 10 of his 19 points, at times outscoring the entire PCU quintet and giving Saint Clare the upper hand for good. Dionisio, who sat out the Saints’ first two games, finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
In the day’s final contest, Rizal Technological University rode on the superior plays on both ends of Sandy Cenal and Cyrus Tabi to keep season host New Era University still searching for a victory, 62-51. On top by a mere point, 44-43, Cenal and rookie Mark Maloles starred in a critical 10-0 run that put the Blue Thunder ahead with 3:20 left in the game, 54-43.
The Hunters ended their nearly four-minute silence with six straight points but this was quickly neutralized by six unanswered points from Cenal followed by the insurance free throws from Tabi with 17 seconds left, 62-49. Both RTU and Saint Clare carry 3-0 win-loss cards, half a game behind the 4-0 Scorpions.
“I like how the team is doing now,” said RTU coach Johnedel Cardel. “The players have accepted their roles while we continue to develop our younger players for the future.”
Tabi finished with 15 points but his six steals and three blocks was the key as he was named as Player of the Game. Cenal made 11 of his 23 points in the fourth period to frustrate the Hunters’ repeated rallies.
How They Scored:
CENTRO ESCOLAR (81) – Abundo 23, Ebondo 22, Manlangit 8, Opiso 7, Jeruta 6, Casino 5, Arim 5, Telen 5, Gallemit 0, Celso 0, Vargas 0, K. de Leon 0, Saber 0.
OUR LADY OF FATIMA (80) – Juanico 18, Jornacion 12, Marquez 11, Rublico 8, Gozum 8, Pineda 8, Cabrera 6, Jimenez 5, de la Paz 3, Dizon 0, Cruz 0, Albano 0, Abapo 0, Datu 0.
Period Scores: 17-19, 34-47, 55-62, 81-80.
SAINT CLARE (89) – Dionisio 20, Managuelod 19, Aguara 16, Ibarra 10, Lunor 8, Acebron 5, Mendoza 4, Detubio 4, Rios 3, Galvelo 0, Puspus 0, Grimaldo 0.
PHILIPPINE CHRISTIAN (78) – Ayonayon 32, Sazon 19, Mescallado 12, Pallatao 6, Dangca 4, Malto 2, Leron 2, Vasquez 1, Bautista 0, Catipay 0.
Period Scores: 23-16, 42-33, 65-56, 89-78.
RIZAL TECH (62) – Cenal 23, Tabi 15, Maloles 11, Mayuyo 6, Bangeles 4, Riva 2, Estoce 1, Senires 0, Flores 0, Santos 0, Collado 0, Pronto 0, Malimban 0.
NEW ERA (51) – Ilarde 15, Bondoc 10, Bebit 8, Pamat 8, Recetes 4, Bringas 2, Akindele 2, Cabacungan 2, Magkalas 0, Macaranas 0, Absin 0, de la Cruz 0, Postigo 0, Dolor 0.
Period Scores: 11-10, 29-18, 42-39, 62-51.