SAN JUAN City – For now, Coach Eric Altamirano will have to make the most of a roster decimated by injuries. Despite the adversities, his National University Bulldogs still managed to eke out the 70-65 victory over the San Sebastian College Stags Wednesday (May 11) at the 2016 FilOil Flying V Premier Cup at the San Juan Arena.
With big man Alfred Aroga and gunner J-Jay Alejandro most conspicuously absent, the Bulldogs got pleasant surprise performances from its rookies and transfers led by starters Matthew Salem, Matthew Aquino, Reggie Morido and Chino Mosqueda. The quartet keyed National’s strong first period which they handily took, 21-15, and saved enough kick for the final period to hold off the pesky Stags.
The 6’9” Aquino hit a top of the key triple that gave the Bulldogs the lead for good with 1:44 to go, 64-63. From there, the defense held San Sebastian scoreless for over a minute with JV Gallego knocking in a free and Mohammed Salim scoring on a reverse stab to give National a 67-63 lead with 25 ticks remaining.
San Sebastian would quickly threaten one final time on a basket by Jerrick Fabian, 65-67, and then sending Gallego to the line for free throws. The rookie guard missed his second try leading to a scramble for the ball and Jason David fouling Gallego who dutifully made both his gift shots for the final count and 12 seconds on the clock.
“We started strong and just faltered in the third,” said Coach Altamirano. “I like the composure shown in the end game by the rookies and at this point, how we perform and execute is more important than the final result.”
Trailing at halftime, 26-41, the Stags put up a rally in the third behind the eight points of Michael Calisaan and support from Fabian and Ryan Costelo. The Bulldogs clung to a 53-48 advantage entering the fourth canto.
Salem paced the Bulldogs with 11 points and five rebounds as they rose to 2-1 in Group A. Mosqueda followed with 10 points while Aquino had nine points and six rebounds.
Calisaan led the Stags with 19 points and six rebounds. AJ Capobres, son of PBA legend Danny, followed with 15 points while Fabian chipped in 12 as the Stags fell to 1-2.
How They Scored:
NATIONAL (70) – Salem 11, Mosqueda 10, Aquino 9, Morido 8, Abatayo 6, Gallego 6, Gaye 6, Salim 4, Diputado 3, Lastimosa 3, Labing-isa 2, Rangel 2, Yu 0, Cauilan 0.
SAN SEBASTIAN (65) – Calisaan 19, Capobres 15, Fabian 12, Costelo 6, David 5, Gayosa 4, Mercado 2, Valdez 2, Bulanadi 0, Johnson 0, Sera Josef 0, Ilagan 0, Miguel 0, Baetiong 0.
Period Scores: 21-19, 41-26, 53-48, 70-65.