TAGUIG CITY – Our Lady of Fatima University averted a major meltdown at crunch time to survive a fighting Manuel L. Quezon University quintet, 79-74, in continuing action from the 16th National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) basketball tournament at the Enderun Colleges Gym last September 7 (Wednesday). Back-to-back field goals by rookie center Christophe Essomba and veteran guard Miguel Bryan Cabrera saved the day for the Phoenix.
The Phoenix were enjoying a 17-point lead in the third period, 49-32, when the Stallions came galloping back through the combined efforts of Christopher Bitoon, Nikko Lao and Gianne Rivera, who sank a triple with 1:23 left to play to put MLQU within a point, 71-72. However, Essomba responded with an undergoal stab and the Phoenix forced a defensive stop that led to Cabrera’s only points of the day for a 76-71 lead at the 41-second mark.
Another stop led to John Rovin Datu splitting his free throws but Rivera was not finished as he added another triple to threaten for the last time, 74-77, and 14 ticks to go. Jessie Pedrosa was quickly fouled and then settled the final count with two free throws as the Stallions could not convert from there.
“We focused on defending Bitoon,” said Best Player Jerome Juanico who submitted 14 points. He was helped by Emil Japzon with three triples for 11 points.
Rivera led all scorers with 18 points, nine coming in the fourth period MLQU rally. Bitoon finished with 17 points but went scoreless in the opening period thanks to the Phoenix defense.
It was a good recovery for the team of Coach Ralph Emerson Rivera after their harrowing loss to Saint Clare College in their last game, 54-71. The loss put an end to their three-game winning streak to begin the season.
How They Scored:
OUR LADY OF FATIMA (79) – Juanico 14, Japzon 11, Marquez 10, Pedrosa 10, Bargola 9, Essomba 8, Datu 7, Perea 4, Cabrera 2, Albano 2, Gozum 2, Jimenez 0.
MANUEL L. QUEZON (74) – Rivera 18, Bitoon 17, Lao 12, Pangan 9, Mallari 8, Padua 5, Aurelio 3, Baliday 2, Ignacio 0, de la Cruz 0.
Period Scores: 15-13, 39-38, 61-51, 79-74.