MANDALUYONG CITY – Top seed Our Lady of Fatima University needed overtime to eliminate Philippine Christian University, 91-81, and set a date with waiting Saint Clare College of Caloocan for the 16th National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) Seniors Division championship at the Rizal Technological University Gym Sunday afternoon (October 9). This marks the first time in the school’s eight-year participation in the league that they entered the finals.
PCU’s Yves Sazon sent the game into overtime via a triple with three seconds remaining, 73-73. Sazon then scored the first field goal of the extension but the Phoenix showed strong character as Erwin Bargola barrelled his way for a basket and Jerome Juanico nailed a triple to get the lead back for good with 3:15 to play, 78-75.
Dexter Mescallado then threatened with a basket but the suddenly inspired Phoenix rattled off 12 unanswered points to break the game wide open by the 41-second mark, 90-77, with Bargola, Juanico, Miguel Bryan Cabrera and Joseph Marquez at the firing end.
The Phoenix led by 10 points at the half, 38-28, but this was quickly erased as the Dolphins scored the 10 points of the third period to tie the game for the last time, 38-38. Displaying grace under pressure, the wards of Coach Ralph Emerson Rivera recovered with a 15-5 blitz led by Juanico, Cabrera and Jessierey Pedrosa and restore their 10-point lead entering the final period.
Bargola hit back-to-back field goals and John Rovin Datu drained a triple for Fatima’s biggest lead, 60-45. The Dolphins just refused to go away as Von Tambeling and Michael Ayonayon valiantly tried to bring their side back into contention.
Tambeling though had to leave the game after sustaining an ankle injury with 51 ticks left in regulation. Sazon came in as his replacement and quickly chipped away at the Phoenix lead, putting PCU to within three points and 15 seconds on the clock, 68-71.
Dexter Mescallado quickly fouled Marquez and the gambit worked as the Fatima team captain missed both free throws. The Dolphins collared the defensive rebound and Sazon streaked down the court for a layup to come to their closest, 70-71.
Cabrera was then sent to the free throw line by Chri Malto, making both pressure-packed gift shots, 73-70. There was more than enough time for Sazon to sneak in one more heroic act.
“We made adjustments especially on defense,” said Coach Rivera. “After we lost Game Two, we did not practice anymore and we just discussed our strategy before the game.”
Juanico sizzled for seven points in the overtime to pace the Phoenix with 20 points. Cabrera supported him with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Despite his injury and sitting out the entire overtime, Tambeling still topped the Dolphins with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Sazon had 10 of his 20 points in the fourth period on top of six rebounds and two steals.
The Phoenix and Saints will play Game One of their best-of-three series this Tuesday (October 11) at the Makati Coliseum starting at 4:00 PM. The championship series openers in the other divisions will also be played as RTU and Enderun Colleges dispute the Women’s Division at 12:00 PM followed by the Juniors Finals between Saint Clare and AMA University at 2:00 PM.
How They Scored:
OUR LADY OF FATIMA (91) – Juanico 20, Cabrera 14, Bargola 12, Datu 12, Pedrosa 7, Essomba 7, Marquez 6, Japzon 6, Albano 5, Jimenez 2, Perea 0.
PHILIPPINE CHRISTIAN (81) – Tambeling 22, Sazon 20, Ayonayon 15, Castro 12, Vasquez 5, Mescallado 5, Yasa 2, Abrigo 0, Palattao 0, Malto 0, Bautista 0, Catipay 0.
Period Scores: 16-15, 38-28, 53-43, 73-73 (reg.), 91-81 (OT).