MAKATI CITY – Centro Escolar University claimed the first spot in the championship series of the 15th National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) by plastering Philippine Christian University, 97-75, and sweep the best-of-three semifinal series Monday (September 28) at the Makati Coliseum. The win though came at a great cost as both teams engaged in a free for all with 14.7 seconds left and the outcome long decided.
Timely intervention of game officials and security personnel prevented the trouble from further escalating. NAASCU officials decided to forego the remaining seconds and awarded the game to the Scorpions.
Even before the game could start, drama started to unfold as CEU refused to take the floor to protest the presence on the PCU bench of reserve player Fidel Castro who was serving his residency but arrived wearing a uniform. After over five minutes of negotiations, Castro quietly left and the contest finally got underway.
The Scorpions’ tactics seemed to backfire as the Dolphins started with a lot of spunk and energy, 17-9, behind a rain of triples from Yves Sazon and Dexter Mescallado. CEU recovered to eke out a one-point cushion after the first, 23-20.
Suddenly, the Dolphins’ chances hit a major snag as key players Michael Ayonayon and Brent Palattao lasped into foul trouble. Adding to their woes was the ejection of reserve center Paolo Bautista for elbowing Rodrigue Ebondo from behind with 2:20 before the halftime break.
That was the cue for the Scorpions to go for the early jugular. The lead proceeded to balloon to as high as 28 markers, 90-62.
A total of five CEU players submitted twin digits, led by Aaron Jeruta with 16 and Jason Opiso with 15. Mescallado and Sazon tried their best to prop up the Dolphins with 27 and 21 points respectively.
CEU’s advance and the ensuing events clearly stole the limelight from the Rizal Technological University Blue Thunder who forced a deciding Game Three by derailing the Saint Clare College of Caloocan Saints in the first game, 71-64. The rubber match will be on Tuesday (September 29), still at the Makati Coliseum starting at 1:00 PM.
RTU rallied from eight points down midway in the fourth period, 50-58, by rattling off 10 unanswered points courtesy of Sandy Cenal, Storm Riva and Cyrus Tabi and seize back the lead for good at the 3:20 mark, 60-58. Jeffakins Aguara briefly evened the count, 60-60, but the Blue Thunder responded with Riva dropping six straight points and Cenal added two more free throws to give them a 68-60 advantage with a minute to play.
Back-to-back baskets allowed the Saints to slightly threaten for the last time with 30 seconds left, 64-68. Fittingly, Cenal and Riva capped their fourth period heroics by icing the game and the final tally from the free throw line.
Cenal bucked early foul trouble to power RTU with 20 points and six rebounds. Tabi complemented him with 15 points and eight rebounds followed by Player of the Game Riva with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Aris Dionisio came off the bench to pace the Saints with 15 points and 11 rebounds followed by Aguara and Nico Galvelo with 12 points each. CEU and Saint Clare have met in all the NAASCU Finals since 2012 while RTU is enjoying its best season ever since debuting in 2013.
Meanwhile, NAASCU Secretary General Jose “Pepe” Sanchez vowed to crack the whip on all erring parties from the day’s CEU-PCU fracas. “I am in consultation with Commissioner Matt Calizar and we will review the videos and hand out the sanctions before our next playing day,” said Coach Sanchez.
How They Scored:
RIZAL TECH (72) – Cenal 20, Tabi 15, Riva 14, Pronto 5, Mayuyo 4, Santos 4, Maloles 3, Saborrido 2, Estoce 2, Bangeles 2, Malimban 1, Flores 0, Peralta 0.
SAINT CLARE (64) – Dionisio 15, Galvelo 12, Aguara 12, Ibarra 8, Rios 8, Acebron 4, Detubio 3, Lunor 2, Grimaldo 0.
Period Scores: 20-18, 33-29, 47-49, 72-64.
CENTRO ESCOLAR (97) – Jeruta 16, Opiso 15, S. de Leon 13, Ebondo 12, Arim 11, Abundo 8, K. de Leon 7, Anunciacion 5, Celso 5, Saber 3, Casino 2, Vargas 0, Manlangit 0, Telen 0.
PHILIPPINE CHRISTIAN (75) – Mescallado 27, Sazon 21, Ayonayon 10, Leron 5, Malto 3, Catipay 3, Palattao 2, Vasquez 2, Dangca 2, Bautista 0.
Period Scores: 23-22, 52-37, 71-57, 97-75.