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Alejandro leads National U past La Salle, saves season



The National University Bulldogs will not go down without a fight!

Needing a “miracle” -in coach Eric Altamirano’s words- to keep their Final Four hopes alive, Jay Alejandro, who has been spectacular in the second round, performed a career-defining performance to lead the Bulldogs past the De La Salle University Green Archers, 81-73, Wednesday evening at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

In the third quarter and with the two squads exchanging leads for the better part of the first half, the Green Archers came out of the locker rooms on fire as they opened the third quarter with a 13-0 blast. Jeron Teng led the Archers during that surge in scoring six points and assisting on a cutting Josh Torralba to give La Salle a 43-32 lead. Moreover, Alolino and the rest of the Bulldogs struggled to find their shot. Coach Eric Altamirano then called for a timeout to regroup his troops. The timeout proved to be vital as senior Kyle Neypes exposed the thin La Salle interior defense in driving through the lanes and getting offensive boards. Neypes scored seven straight point capped by a layup that cut the La Salle lead to just two, 43-41, with 4:42 to go. However, Neypes landed on a foot of a La Salle player that resulted to a sprained ankle. After a La Sale timeout, both teams exchanged baskets but rookie Andrei Caracut scored on a floater and a layup while Jason Perkins was able to convert on a three-point play to give the Green-and-White squad a 53-49 lead to enter the final frame.

With La Salle up 55-51 with 8:22 remaining in the game, Jay Alejandro, who also saved the Bulldogs in their overtime win against Adamson, led a 14-3 rally with every point coming from him. During that personal run, Alejandro knocked down two free throws, a hard drive layup, and three three-pointers, the last six points coming from back-to-back triples that gave NU a 65-58 lead. Sauler had to burn his second to the last timeout with 5:41 to go just to quell the Alejandro rally. After four straight points by Teng, the momentum had shifted towards the Jhocson Street cagers with Jeoff Javillonar knocking down a triple and Alejandro scoring on an and-one coming from a fastbreak.

Thomas Torres and Jeron Teng were able to bring cut the deficit to five with 2:42 to go but a lucky pass by Alfred Aroga to Med Salim extended the lead to seven once more. The DLSU coaching staff had to use their last timeout with 1:30 to go. Missed triples by Torres and Caracut worsened the situation for the Archers. With 44.4 ticks to go and with NU up by just five, a careless inbound by Salim led to a high-arching three by Torres. After an Altamirano timeout, Aroga was able to convert on a three-point play. Misses by Perkins underneath and a layup by Javellona with three seconds left sealed the game for National University, 81-73.

“I am very proud of the boys on how they performed,” a relieved coach Eric Altamirano said after the game. “We had a good game plan in the first half but nawala nung third quarter. That’s why I called for a timeout to regroup the team. They reponded well to it.”

The man of the hour though was Jay Alejandro. Alejandro notched a season-high 25 points on an excellent 62% clip. He had 17 points in the crucial fourth quarter that included three triples. “Kinailangan ko mag step-up,” the junior said. “Napilay si Kyle and foul-trouble si Pao.” Moreover, he knows that the Bulldogs need every win they can get in saying “big win ito sa amin. Kelangan namin lahat ng panalo na kaya naming makuha.

Besides Alejandro, Paolo Javelona broke out of his funk in scoring 14 points on 5/8 shooting. The performance of the two more than made up for the off-night of Smart Elite ambassador Gelo Alolino. Alolino was a horrid 3/15 from the field but was able to grab nine boards and seven assists.

For the Green Archers, Jeron Teng had 25 points to lead his team. He was 10/22 from the field and dished out just two assists. Andrei Caracut added 18 markers while Jason Perkins was able to grab a double-double with ten points and 15 boards.

The National University defense was able to limit the Green Archers to just 36.84% from the field while shooting at a 46.77% field. The Bulldogs were also able to outrebound La Salle 48-37.

The NU Bulldogs (5-7), who are now just a game behind La Salle, will next face the UP Fighting Maroons on Sunday, November 8 at 11:00am while the DLSU Green Archers (5-6) face bitter rivals Ateneo on the same day at 4:00pm.

The Scores:
NU (81) – Alejandro 25, Javelona 14, Alolino 7, Aroga 7, Javillonar 7, Neypes 7, Salim 6, Abatayo 4, Diputado 2, Morido 2.
DLSU (73) – Teng 25, Caracut 18, Perkins 10, Torres 8, Rivero 5, Torralba 4, Navarro 3, Langston 0, Muyang 0, Tratter 0.
Quarterscores: 14-10, 32-30, 49-53, 81-73.