MANDALUYONG CITY – The Centro Escolar University Scorpions annexed its third straight National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) Seniors basketball championship by downing archrival Saint Clare College of Caloocan Saints, 71-62, and sweep the best-of-three series Saturday (October 3) at the Rizal Technological University Gym. Earlier in the day, the Lady Scorpions made it a double celebration of sorts by capturing the Women’s Division title for the fifth year in a row via a 53-37 decision over the RTU Lady Thunder.
Samboy de Leon went berserk at the start of the third period as he scored CEU’s first 12 points and build a 42-30 advantage. That proved to be enough cushion as the Saints had great difficulty at reducing their deficit with the Scorpions’ lead going to as high as 16 markers, 47-31.
Hoping to force a Game Three, the Saints staged one final rally in the fourth and closed in by seven points on the strength of back-to-back three-point plays by Jonathan Ibarra and Jeffakins Aguara with 3:34 to play, 56-63. The Scorpions countered with solid free throw shooting by Aaron Jeruta who made five gift shots in the crucial stretch before the final minute of action.
Rodrigue Ebondo then delivered a thundering dunk at the 45-second mark for the virtual knockout blow. By then both teams went through the motions with Saint Clare coach Jino Manansala and his staff crossing over to congratulate the victorious Scorpions with still 16 ticks to go.
De Leon went on to lead all scorers with 20 points followed by Jeruta with 15. Aris Dionisio came off the bench to pace the Saints with 12 points and seven rebounds followed by Jeffakins Aguara with 11 points and 16 rebounds.
For CEU coach Edgar Macaraya, the win also meant his fifth NAASCU title, including a back-to-back with the San Sebastian College-Cavite Baycats from 2008 to 2009. He is now tied with Philippine Christian University consultant Loreto Tolentino Sr. who bagged five straight titles with the University of Manila Hawks from 2001 to 2005.
Saint Clare started hot as Jordan Rios canned two quick baskets en route to a 10-6 lead. However, the CEU defense forced the Saints into a major scoring drought to tie the game after the first period, 12-12, and taking the lead for good on Jason Opiso’s field goal to open the second period scoring parade.
On his third season with the Scorpions, the hardworking exchange student Ebondo from the Democratic Republic of the Congo finally got the recognition he deserved as he was named as the season’s Most Valuable Player. Joining him in the Mythical Five were teammate Alvin Abundo, Saint Clare’s Bong Managuelod and Jonathan Ibarra and RTU’s Sandy Cenal with Mark Maloles of RTU chosen as Rookie of the Year.
The Scorpions finished the season unscathed in 10 games. They swept their six games in the elimination phase followed by a controversial 2-0 sweep of PCU in the semfinals and then the 2-0 romp in the finale against the Saints.
Other members of the champion team are JK Casino, Joseph Celso, Jhan Anunciacion, JM Vargas, Joseph Manlangit, O’Neil Arim, Sonny Boy Saber, Jeremy Gallemit, Rey Telen, Kenneth Kurt de Leon, Art Patrick Aquino and John Raphael Aranas. Assisting Coach Macaraya are Yong Garcia, Agustin Tiongco, Oscar Torres, Jay Cambarihan and Timothy Taclas with trainers Philip Go, Alex Almonte and Rachel Santos.
In Women’s Division play, the Lady Scorpions overcame a very sluggish start and used a strong second half performance for the school’s fifth straight championship since 2011. Just like the Seniors, the Lady Scorpions won all their six assignments as they overcame RTU for the third year in a row.
Making the achievement more remarkable was the fact that CEU for the second straight season used only nine players. Just like last season, Coach Cambarihan had to contend with a lot of player losses due to injuries or academics but it hardly mattered as the compact unit bulldozed their way to the trophy.
Limited to only four points in the first three periods, Janine Pontejos exploded for nine points in the fourth period as CEU outscored RTU, 19-6. The Lady Thunder never recovered as the Lady Scorpions cruised to the victory.
Tin Caranto had 18 points in the finale, enough for her to get the nod as the season’s Most Valuable Player. Completing the Women’s Mythical Five are Pontejos, RTU’s Angelica Jaberto, Our Lady of Fatima’s Angela Buenamente and Saint Clare’s Sam Mendoza with OLFU’s Kat Servillon as the Rookie of the Year.
Jaberto paced RTU with 10 points followed by Wiz Duazo and Rogelyn Inoferio with five points each. It was a tough loss for the Lady Thunder and Coach Gogoy Bagares as they led at halftime, 21-17, and looked well in control to force a rubber match until the second half collapse.
Completing the nine-player roster are Mary Ann Doloque, Divine Lacson, Mercy Lawan, Stefhanie Ventura, Jenina Solis, Ria Matos and Arlain Galgo. Also present to receive the trophies were CEU officials Dr. Clarito Olaer and Prof. Juanita P. Alamillo.
Meanwhile, the defending champion Saint Clare Junior Saints prevented a triple celebration as they stayed alive and forced a Game Three for the Juniors Division crown, 72-71, thanks to the marginal basket by Steve Fongue with 22 seconds to go. After a Moh Sayed Ascano miss, Ramil Tero grabbed the crucial defensive rebound and was fouled at the two-second mark, missing both his free throws but had the presence of mind to collar the offensive rebound and preserve the victory.
Phaul Rojay Santos led the Junior Saints with 15 followed by Michael Galay and Normel de los Reyes with 10 apiece. Ascano and Judel Ric Fuentes topped the Junior Scorpions with 13 points each.
Game Three of the Juniors finals will be on Monday (October 5) at the RTU Gym starting at 10:00 AM. The simple closing ceremonies for the tournament will follow immediately.
How They Scored:
First Game (Juniors)
SAINT CLARE (72) – Santos 15, Galay 10, de los Reyes 10, Fongue 9, Fuentes 8, Tero 7, San Diego 6, Perez 5, Padua 2, Baltazar 0.
CENTRO ESCOLAR (71) – Ascano 13, Fuentes 13, Wamar 12, Galinato 10, Alvendia 6, Guinitaran 5, Sumalacay 4, Dizon 4, Veron 2, Baconcon 2, Trangia 0, Uri 0, Intic 0.
Period Scores: 15-19, 41-41, 54-56, 72-71.
Second Game (Women)
CENTRO ESCOLAR (53) – Caranto 18, Pontejos 13, Doloque 10, Ventura 7, Lacson 3, Lawan 2, Matos 0, Solis 0, Galgo 0.
RIZAL TECH (37) – Jaberto 15, Inoferio 5, Duazo 5, Ayhon 4, N. Mantos 4, Santos 2, Yonzon 1, Mier 1, Ybanez 0, Pocallan 0, V. Mantos 0.
Period Scores: 6-9, 17-21, 34-31, 53-37.
Third Game (Seniors)
CENTRO ESCOLAR (71) – S. de Leon 20, Jeruta 15, Opiso 12, Ebondo 7, Abundo 7, Anunciacion 4, Manlangit 3, Vargas 2, Telen 1, Arim 0, Casino 0, Celso 0, K. de Leon 0.
SAINT CLARE (62) – Dionisio 12, Aguara 11, Ibarra 8, Galvelo 7, Acebron 6, Managuelod 5, Detubio 4, Rios 4, Lunor 3, Mendoza 2.
Period Scores: 12-12, 30-21, 48-34, 71-62.