MAKATI CITY – Top seed Our Lady of Fatima University literally went through the eye of the needle before finally beating upset-conscious Philippine Christian University, 62-60, at the start of their best-of-three semifinal series for the 16th National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) at the Makati Coliseum Thursday (October 6). The Phoenix and their fans held their collective breath as Dexter Mescallado missed the potential game-winning triple and Yves Sazon grabbing the offensive rebound but missing the running shot as time expired.
Making sure that their status as the league’s number one team would not go to waste, Fatima patiently rallied from as much as a dozen points down early in the third period, 25-37, with veterans Miguel Bryan Cabrera and Jerome Juanico leading the way. The Dolphins managed to hang on to a one-point lead entering the fourth period, 41-40.
The Phoenix got their first taste of the lead on Andrei Albano’s field goal to open the fourth period, 42-41. A seesaw battle ensued with Von Tambeling canning two free throws to tie the game for the last time with 6:31 to play, 46-46.
A 9-2 burst behind Jessierey Pedrosa, Joseph Marquez and Emil Japzon erected Fatima’s biggest lead of the game, 55-48. Still, PCU refused to quit and kept the pressure on with Sazon stealing the ball for an unmolested layup with 37 ticks to go, 57-59.
Content with grabbing rebounds throughout the game, 6’7” Christophe Essomba saw his attempt blocked but recovered his bearings to pick up the loose ball for the stab and breathing room for the Phoenix at the 15-second mark, 61-57. Suddenly, team captain Fidel Castro hit an awkward triple that put the Dolphins at their closest with a long 10 seconds remaining, 60-61.
Castro quickly fouled Marquez to stop the clock, with the Fatima skipper making his first gift shot for the final tally. Marquez would miss the second gift shot with the Dolphins collaring the defensive rebounds and rushing down the court in one final attempt to reverse the outcome but to no avail.
Marquez powered the Phoenix with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Japzon hit three triples for 12 points while the 17-year old Essomba was a force underneath with 17 rebounds to go with five points.
Michael Ayonayon paced the Dolphins with 17 points and 11 rebounds but was held to only one field goal in the fourth period. Tambeling followed with 14 points but fouled out midway through the fourth period.
Gifted with matching brand new shoes by school management for topping the elimination round, the Phoenix will now shoot for a seat in the championship series on Game Two this Saturday (October 8) at the Rizal Technological University Gym in Mandaluyong City starting at 2:00 PM. If needed, Game Three will be the following day (October 9), still at RTU.
How They Scored:
OUR LADY OF FATIMA (62) – Marquez 17, Japzon 12, Cabrera 7, Pedrosa 5, Juanico 5, Essomba 5, Albano 4, Datu 4, Bargola 2, Perea 1, Gozum 0, Jimenez 0.
PHILIPPINE CHRISTIAN (60) – Ayonayon 17, Tambeling 14, Castro 12, Sazon 7, Vasquez 4, Mescallado 3, Malto 3, Pallatao 0, Bautista 0, Yasa 0, Catipay 0.
Period Scores: 11-19, 25-28, 40-41, 62-60.