MAKATI CITY – Defending champions Centro Escolar University Scorpions are one win away from capturing their third consecutive National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) Seniors basketball championship after they subdued the tough Saint Clare College of Caloocan Saints, 83-78, Thursday (October 1) at the Makati Coliseum. Rodrigue Ebondo hit big shot after big shot to propel his team to a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
Reigning Most Valuable Player Samboy de Leon hit a one-hander from left side to break the game’s final tie, 74-72, and 1:35 to play. After a defensive stop, the Scorpions rushed down the court but Aaron Jeruta missed only for Ebondo to tip in the offensive rebound for more cushion at the 54-second mark, 76-72.
In a crucial moment, Jordan Rios committed a five-second inbound violation to return possession to CEU. Ebondo then delivered a booming triple from top of the key to knock the wind out of the Saints, 79-72, and 33 seconds to play.
Alvin Abundo then insured the win by sinking four free throws and adding a steal for good measure. Ebondo was the undisputed choice for Player of the Game with 13 of his 19 points in the fourth period to go with 13 rebounds.
More heroes stepped up for the Scorpions of Coach Edgar Macaraya. Abundo, Jeruta, de Leon and Jason Opiso all hit twin figures as they took turns at leading the offense for the first three periods that ended in a 55-55 stalemate.
Jonathan Ibarra tried his best to lift the Saints by firing 12 of his team-best 18 markers in the fourth period. Aris Dionisio came off the bench to chip in 11 points and seven rebounds.
Meanwhile, CEU’s entries in the other divisions completed the school’s sweep of the opening games beginning with the defending champion Lady Scorpions of Coach Jay Cambarihan routing the Rizal Technological University Lady Thunder in the Women’s Division, 66-51. Reigning MVP Janine Pontejos led the way with 22 points followed by Tin Caranto with 16.
The Junior Scorpions of Coach Yong Garcia took the first step in regaining the crown from the defending champion Junior Saints in the Juniors Division for players aged 19 years and below, 64-54. Guards Orlan Wamar, Paul Galinato and Kurt Trangia all scored in double figures as they keyed the breakaway in the second half.
Game Two in all three divisions will be on Saturday (October 3) at the RTU Gym in Mandaluyong City starting at 9:00 AM with CEU seeking a rare Triple Crown with all three teams ending the season with perfect win-loss records. If needed, the NAASCU will return to the Makati Coliseum on Monday (October 5) for the deciding Game Three.
How They Scored:
First Game (Women)
CENTRO ESCOLAR (66) – Pontejos 22, Caranto 16, Ventura 7, Doloque 7, Galgo 6, Lawan 4, Lacson 4, Matos 0, Solis 0.
RIZAL TECH (51) – Jaberto 14, Ayhon 8, Duazo 6, Mier 6, Dionisio 4, N. Mantos 4, Inoferio 3, Ybanez 2, Pocallan 2, Yonzon 2, Santos 0, V. Mantos 0.
Period Scores: 10-8, 31-24, 40-35, 66-51.
Second Game (Juniors)
CENTRO ESCOLAR (64) – Wamar 12, Trangia 10, Galinato 10, Sumalacay 6, Malubay 6, Ascano 5, Guinitaran 4, Alvendia 4, Dizon 3, Veron 2, Baconcon 2, Fuentes 0, Intic 0.
SAINT CLARE (54) – Fuentes 12, Padua 9, San Diego 9, de los Reyes 8, Tero 7, Fongue 3, Santos 2, Perez 2, Baltazar 2, Galay 0, Laurente 0.
Period Scores: 17-15, 30-28, 48-42, 64-54.
Third Game (Seniors)
CENTRO ESCOLAR (83) – Ebondo 19, Abundo 16, Opiso 14, S. de Leon 11, Jeruta 10, Casino 5, Arim 4, Manlangit 4, Gallemit 0. Anunciacion 0, Celso 0.
SAINT CLARE (78) – Ibarra 18, Dionisio 11, Detubio 10, Managuelod 10, Lunor 8, Acebron 6, Galvelo 5, Mendoza 4, Rios 4, Aguara 2.
Period Scores: 17-17, 37-28, 55-55, 83-78.