A botch call and a clutch performance by Jay Alejandro saved the Final Four hopes of the National University Bulldogs as the defending champions needed 45 minutes to avoid an Adamson University Soaring Falcon upset, 85-79, Wednesday afternoon at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum in Pasay City.
In their past two losses, the cagers from Jhocson Street struggled to find even a decent offensive flow. It was the same in the first half of this game as the offensive woes of the defending champions continued. Even in fielding a strong five of Kyle Neypes, Alfred Aroga, Gelo Alolino, Pao Javelona, and Jay Alejandro, only Aroga was the only source of offense for the Bulldogs in the first quarter as he put up seven of the 12 NU points. To counter Aroga, the inside out duo of Pape Sarr and William Polican teamed up to lead the Falcons to a game-high 11 point lead, 28-17, with 5:31 to go. The Bulldogs were able to close in on the lead behind the backcourt tandem of Alejandro and Alolino to cut the deficit to just five, 36-31, to enter halftime.
In the third quarter, Pape Sarr continued to dominate the paint in the third quarter as he completely dominated Aroga in the paint. Alolino, knowing the grave importance of this win, made it an emphasis to find open teammates in a 15-5 run that gave NU a 42 to 40 lead. The run was capped by an Aroga find to a wideopen Alejandro for a triple. Sarr, after sending Aroga to the bench after committing his third foul, feasted in the paint to give the lead back to Adamson, 53-50, to end the third quarter.
Sarr continued his personal run to start the fourth quarter with two conversions in the paint while a Jerome Garcia fastbreak layup gave the Falcons a 57-52 lead to force an Altamirano-timeout early in the fourth quarter. The NU defense were able to set up a barricade late in the fourth while Jeoff Javillonar and Alolino were able to tie the game at 64-all. Six straight points by the Falcons though capped by a Polican fastbreak layup gave Adamson a 70-64 lead at the 2:38 mark of the fourth. NU’s fifth year floor general, Alolino, willed his way for a layup with 1:41 to go in the game whiel a split in the charity stripe cut the lead just three. With 22.7 ticks to go, Jerome Garcia contested a Alejandro corner triple with the latter selling the hit. The official nearby called a foul for three free throws. In disgust, Garcia contested the call that resulted to a technical foul. Alejandro was able to convert on all free throws to give NU a one point lead. A split on the stripe by Javelona extended the lead to two. After a Fermin timeout, inbounder JD Tungcab was able to find Ivan Villanueva underneath to tie the game and send the game into overtime, 72-72.
Fatigued and demoralized, the Adamson squad could not find the offensive flow that gave them the lead for the majority of the game. Moreover, Alejandro gained the hot hand in scoring eight points in overtime to give the defending champions an 85-79 win.
“Happy kami kahit ganun kasi a win is still a win,” Smart Elite ambassador Gelo Alolino, who had a double-double 17 points on 50% shooting and ten dimes, said after the game. “Talagang kelangan namin yung panalo na ‘to at nakakuha kami ng buwelo.”
Coach Eric Altamirano then said his team’s road to the Final Four is getting tougher as the season progresses. He added that, “ang importante is maibalik namin ang laro namin. It’s hard to find our confidence especially coming from a losing streak. I hope that we can pick-up after this game.”
Besides Alolino, Jay Alejandro scored his season-high 22 points. He was 7/13 from the field and 6/6 from the foul stripe. Aroga also notched a double-double with 17 points and 11 boards.
For the Falcons, Pape Sarr continued his domination in the paint with 32 points on an outstanding 12/24 clip. He also grabbed 17 boards and was 8/12 from the foul stripe. Ivan Villanueva also played his best game of the season in scoring ten points.
As a team, the Falcons shot better from the field in shooting 44.93% compared to the victor’s 39%. However, the San Marcelino cagers were forced to 25 turnovers that led to 25 turnover points. Moreover, the defending champions were 17/26 from the foul stripe compared to just 12/18 by Adamson.
The NU Bulldogs (4-6) will next face the Ateneo Blue Eagles on Sunday, October 25 at 4:00pm while the Adamson Soaring Falcons (1-9) face the DLSU Green Archers on Saturday, October 24 at 2:00pm.
NU (85) – Alejandro 22, Alolino 17, Aroga 17, Javellona 11, Javillonar 7, Celda 5, Neypes 3, Yu 3, Abatayo 0, Diputado 0, Rangel 0, Salim 0, Tansingco 0.
AdU (79) – Sarr 32, Villanueva 10, Polican 9, Escalambre 8, Bernardo 4, Fernandez 3, Ng 3, Tungcab 3, Camacho 2, J. Garcia 2, Margallo 2, Miranda 1, C. Garcia 0.
Quarterscores: 12-16, 31-36, 50-53, 72-72, 85-79.
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