QUEZON CITY – Defending champion Centro Escolar University and last year’s co-finalist Saint Clare College of Caloocan took the first step in arranging another titanic championship meeting by surviving the challenge of separate opponents at the start of the semifinal round of the 15th National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) basketball tournament Saturday (September 26) at the Dr. Henry Noble Gym inside the Trinity University of Asia. CEU defeated Philippine Christian University, 76-59, while Saint Clare got the better of Rizal Technological University, 67-58.
Both games unfolded with similar storylines as both winners started slow, recovering in time behind the good plays of their African exchange students. CEU’s Rodrigue Ebondo of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Saint Clare’s Jeffakins Aguara of Nigeria both proved to be unstoppable forces as they lifted their schools.
Falling behind after one period, 15-20, Ebondo erupted for 11 points in the second as he outscored the entire PCU side and give the Scorpions the lead for good by halftime, 32-30. Ebondo was not yet finished as he added seven more markers in the final canto to with the 11 of Joseph Manlangit to finally put away the Dolphins.
Ebondo ended up with a game-high 24 points on top of 15 rebounds. Manlangit came off the bench to score four points earlier in the second period for a total of 15 points.
Michael Ayonayon again led the Dolphins with 18 points but could only make four in the second half. Dexter Mescallado chipped in 12.
Aguara had more turnovers than points in the first half but a new Aguara emerged after the halftime break as he scattered 10 points to power the Saints’ rally that was capped by back-to-back baskets by Jonathan Ibarra that tied the game and gave the lead to the Saints for the first time, 38-36. Aguara then joined forces with Aris Dionisio as they pushed Saint Clare to their biggest lead midway through the fourth period, 60-45.
The Blue Thunder would slightly threaten behind a scoring binge by Sandy Cenal, 53-60, but it was not enough as Bong Managuelod and Jordan Rios hit crucial baskets that restored their double digit lead, 64-53. Saint Clare thus avenged its 77-81 defeat to RTU last September 17 at the Makati Coliseum wherein they played sans Aguara who was suspended for fighting in their previous game.
Auguara made up for lost time as he tallied 18 points and 10 rebounds. Rios backed him up with 17 markers.
Cenal paced the Blue Thunder with 18 points and nine rebounds. Kerr Bangeles followed with 14 points, seven of those made in the first period.
Game Two of both series will be on September 28 (Monday) at the Makati Coliseum starting at 12:00 PM. If needed, the rubber matches are scheduled the next day at Trinity.
The stepladder playoff in the Women’s Division stole the fire in terms of excitement with the RTU Lady Thunder tripping the Our Lady of Fatima Lady Phoenix, 36-35. After Angelica Jaberto stretched RTU’s lead with a free throw at the two-second mark, 36-33, teammate Lourdes Pocallan fouled Katrina Servillon at the three-point arc with less than a second to go but Servillon missed her first attempt and made her next two to allow the Lady Thunder the big escape.
The Lady Thunder will now renew their rivalry with the defending champion and top seed CEU Lady Scorpions, who have defeated them in the last two championship series. Game One of the best-of-three series will be on October 1 (Thursday) at the Makati Coliseum.
Crislyn Mier, a member of last season’s Mythical Five, led the Lady Thunder with eight points while Jaberto had seven points. Rebeca Evangelio paced the Lady Phoenix with 12 points followed by Servillon with six.
In the day’s final game, the defending champion Saint Clare Junior Saints got a chance to formally defend their championship by frustrating a very game Fatima Junior Phoenix, 53-47. Waiting for them in the best-of-three series is the undefeated CEU Junior Scorpions.
Ramil Tero starred for the Junior Saints with five of his 11 markers in the fourth period, including a crucial field goal and free throw that insured the victory. Steve Fongue was a force underneath with six of his team-best 14 points in the third period breakaway.
Erwin Bargola topped the Junior Phoenix with 15 points. Gabriel Canilao aided Bargola in their final fourth period rally with six of his 12 total points but the effort fell short.
How They Scored:
First Game (Seniors)
CENTRO ESCOLAR (76) – Ebondo 24, Manlangit 15, Abundo 8, Casino 6, Jeruta 6, K. de Leon 5, Arim 3, Anuciacion 3, S. de Leon 2, Opiso 2, Celso 2, Telen 0.
PHILIPPINE CHRISTIAN (59) – Ayonayon 18, Mescallado 12, Sazon 8, Palattao 7, Vasquez 7, Malto 5, Leron 2, Dangca 0.
Period Scores: 15-20, 32-30, 52-42, 76-59.
Second Game (Seniors)
SAINT CLARE (67) – Aguara 18, Rios 17, Ibarra 10, Dionisio 10, Detubio 4, Lunor 4, Galvelo 2, Managuelod 2, Mendoza 0, Acebron 0, Grimaldo 0.
RIZAL TECH (58) – Cenal 18, Bangeles 14, Estoce 7, Riva 6, Maloles 6, Tabi 5, Mayuyo 2, Senires 0, Flores 0, Santos 0, Pronto 0.
Period Scores: 9-15, 23-31, 48-43, 67-58.
Third Game (Women)
RIZAL TECH (36) – Mier 8, Jaberto 7, Yonzon 6, Ybanez 4, Dionisio 2, Villamonte 2, Enage 2, Santos 2, Orillana 2, Pocallan 1, Canales 0, Halawig 0, Ayhon 0, N. Mantos 0, V. Mantos 0.
OUR LADY OF FATIMA (35) – Evangelio 12, Servillon 6, Gamboa 5, Buenamente 5, Bentic 4, Escotido 3, Naplaza 0, Tuazon 0, Vasquez 0, Manahan 0.
Period Scores: 4-3, 13-9, 28-22, 36-36.
Fourth Game (Juniors)
SAINT CLARE (53) – Fongue 14, Tero 11, Perez 8, de los Reyes 5, Fuentes 5, San Diego 5, Santos 3, Galay 2, Padua 0.
OUR LADY OF FATIMA (47) – Bargola 15, Canilao 12, Geraldo 10, Rapsing 6, Japzon 2, Bueno 1, Alade 1, Lumbera 0, Legaspi 0, Santos 0, Panganiban 0, Resano 0.
Period Scores: 9-5, 22-20, 40-30, 53-47.