When defending UAAP women’s basketball champion National University first played De La Salle University, it was at the start of Season 78.
The Lady Bulldogs led by as much as 27 before finishing off the Lady Archers, 90-78. The latter had a new head coach in Cholo Villanueva and were still trying to put the pieces together, so people can argue the Lady Archers will only get better when the two sides square off again.
NU, however, also got even stronger along the way — a scary thought for the rest of the league.
The Lady Bulldogs, sans reigning MVP Afril Bernardino, went on to beat La Salle impressively in their second round meeting last Sunday, 81-74. The defending champions showed even more depth in the absence of their best player, and had more firepower than the second-seeded Lady Archers.
“They played together,” NU head coach Pat Aquino said, after his team got an outright finals berth for the second straight year.
Aquino fielded only 10 players in the biggest challenge of the Lady Bulldogs’ season yet, and the squad played with an even better sense of urgency. “That is the main point here. There is no superstar. Everyone contributed and pitched in. I hope I can still motivate them in getting the championship.”
Sam Paig led the Lady Bulldogs with 18 points, firing 6-for-8 from downtown, while forward Tin Abriam came off the bench to chip in a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. Starters Shelley Gupilan and Andrea Tongco both scored 12 points apiece.
NU, which led by as much as 19 points, shot better from the field at 49.2 percent, compared to only 39.1 percent for La Salle. NU was also more efficient, having an offensive rating of 98.64 points per 100 possessions to only 90.11 for La Salle.
The Lady Bulldogs shot 44 percent from three-point area, better than the Lady Archers’ 37 percent, and when it came to lay-ups/tip-ins, the former shot 57.9 percent to the latter’s 43.3 percent.
“I think yung kagustuhan nila is there. They wanted to repeat the 14-0 and they played really hard. Things got a bit lousy in the end but the hunger is still there,” Aquino added, hoping the Lady Bulldogs can still show more when championship time comes.
“As I said, 14-0 is nothing without winning the championship. I hope they will even be more prepared. The willingness should always be there.”
NU have won 30 straight games dating back to the last season, and looking at the way the team played, it would be even more difficult for them to be dethroned.
Aquino is preparing the team now for a team-building session to take some time off basketball, and have tune-up matches lined up against high school men’s teams. The mentor knows the job is not yet done, and he is going back to the basics throughout the Lady Bulldogs’ two-week rest to ready his team for the finals.
“More of the basics. How you guard, create your shots, execute, and play together with different faces on the floor. Those are the facets you want (leading to the) championship.”
No Rest for the Weary: Lady Spikers head to training immediately after Lady Bulldogs loss
Why did Jho Maraguinot and Maddie Madayag change numbers?
Mark Dyke back in La Salle
Jho Maraguinot powers Ateneo past UE with all-around showing
Jeremiah Rocha-less Ateneo blank UST to inch closer to the Final Four
Air Padda takes aim at poor officiating: ‘You need to be perfect as a ref’
Adamson averts another UE upset, snaps two-game skid
Chiara Permentilla out for at least two games
- Basketball5 days ago
Arwind Santos on Game 3 loss: ‘May mga shadow yung players kanina, yung lima nagiging walo’
- DLSU4 days ago
Shannon Arthur, La Salle edge UP, near third straight Finals appearance
- Mixed Martial Arts4 days ago
Kevin Belingon headlines Heroes of Honor card
- AdU4 days ago
Practice may have been Adamson’s secret weapon but Jerome Yenson is their ‘lethal weapon’