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Filoil: Figueroa takes over in OT as NU escapes CSB in thriller

Jake Figueroa came to the rescue for defending champion National University on Wednesday at San Juan’s Filoil EcoOil Centre.

The former Adamson Baby Falcon made a significant impact when it mattered most, outperforming Migs Oczon and College of St. Benilde in a thrilling overtime game, resulting in an 88-72 victory for NU in the first overtime match of the 2023 Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup.

Figueroa scored eight points, including a crucial corner triple that forced the game into overtime. He also contributed three steals and one rebound in the final second of regulation and throughout the entire overtime period, ensuring that the Bulldogs never gave up despite being down 69-72 with only 13.4 seconds remaining.

Figueroa outscored the Blazers single-handedly in the overtime period, as the Bulldogs’ defense prevented any further scoring from their opponents.

“Eto yung mga kailangan nilang pagdaanan, na masusubukan yung character ng team. We were down, so paano namin babawiin,” said head coach Jeff Napa. “Kahit napakasama ng laro namin, we had to find ways to win. At least, na-BDO namin ngayon.”

Jolo Manansala, Steve Nash Enriquez, and Omar John also contributed to National U’s decisive 16-0 run in overtime, while their defense effectively limited Oczon and Miggy Corteza of St. Benilde.

“Kami kasi, kahit anong laro, ayaw naming matalo. Kaya tatrabahuin at tatrabahuin lang namin lagi,” said Enriquez, who totaled 21 points, four assists, and four rebounds to help the Bulldogs overcome the absence of Kean Baclaan who was out due to flu.

Omar John contributed 16 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks, while Figueroa recorded an all-around performance with 16 points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals.

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The Bulldogs secured the first spot in the Final Four, continuing their title defense in the prestigious preseason tournament supported by Filoil, EcoOil, Hanes, Akari, Reyes BBQ, BDO, Kalos Sportswear, and Molten.

Oczon led the way for St. Benilde with 11 points, five assists, and four rebounds, while Felipe Marasigan added 12 points and five rebounds.

However, St. Benilde ran out of steam in the endgame, bowing out of the tournament and turning their focus to the return of reigning MVP Will Gozum for the next season.

In the play-in games, Colegio de San Juan de Letran and Far Eastern University asserted their dominance over debuting regional champions to position themselves for the fourth seeds in their respective groups.

Kobe Monje and Kevin Santos combined forces to lead the Knights to an 85-73 victory over Guang Ming College (GMC) in the first game of their two-game series.

The interior duo contributed all but five points in an 18-6 run that turned a four-point lead of 46-42 early in the second half into a 64-48 advantage with 2:21 left in the third quarter.

Letran’s defense limited GMC, the Luzon qualifier, to come no closer than seven points, ensuring the three-peat NCAA champions maintained their momentum throughout the game.

Facing a GMC frontline led by Nigerian student-athletes Dikachi Udodo and Stephen Ihebem, Letran head coach Rensy Bajar praised his big men, including Pao Javillonar, for their strong performance.

He said, “Yung Guang Ming, maganda programa nila, pero because of our bigs, na-limit namin sila nung second half. Nagtulong-tulong kami sa loob para mawala yung point of attack nila.”

Monje wound up with 18 points; Santos ended with 13 points, seven rebounds, and six blocks; and Kurt Reyson tallied 19 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and three steals, as the Knights moved a win away – or a loss of no more than 11 points – from Group I’s no. 4 slot and a quarterfinals date with Group II no. 1 De La Salle University.

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The Tamaraws, meanwhile, buried Jose Maria College Foundation (JMC) in a couple of first half barrages before breezing to a 96-65 decision.

The Kings, Escandor Cup champions from VisMin, got off to a 5-0 start before Xyrus Torres caught fire and scored 10 points in an 18-6 run that put FEU on top, 18-11, late in the first period. JMC then responded with five straight points only to see the Tamaraws counter with a 14-0 charge of their own for a 32-16 advantage at the 6:42 mark of the second quarter.

The green and gold wouldn’t be threatened the rest of the way en route to a decisive win in the first of their two-game series.

“Coming into games like this, you just have to respect the opponent, respect the game. How do you do that? Play hard and play the right way,” said assistant coach Gabby Severino, who filled in for shot-caller Denok Miranda.

In the end, Torres had 20 points built on four triples to go with five rebounds, as Royce Alforque pumped in 14 points, six assists, and three rebounds in his second game back from a knee injury. FEU will clinch the Group II fourth seed to face Group I top seed University of Perpetual Help if it beats the Kings once more — or it doesn’t lose by as much as 32.

JMC was paced by the 17 points, nine rebounds, and three assists of Christer Catarong, while Udodo fronted the effort for GMC with 24 points, eight rebounds, and three steals.

The Scores:

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First Game:
FEU 96 – Torres 20, Alforque 14, Guibao 10, Bagunu 9, Pasaol 7, Ona 7, Macapagal 7, Faty 6, Anonuevo 6, Montemayor 6, Sleat 2, Felipe 2, Songcuya 0, Buenaventura 0
JMC 65 – Catarong 17, Poyos 15, Quiamco 10, Olivar 5, Mendiola 5, Montana 4, Thompson 4, Gementiza 3, Morado 2, Gaslang 0, Torejas 0, Bularon 0
Quarterscores: 24-16, 52-23, 75-41, 96-65

Second Game:
Letran 85 – Reyson 19, Monje 18, Santos 13, Fajardo 11, Javillonar 10, Cuajao 7, Montecillo 5, Tolentino 2, Ariar 0, Nunag 0, Morales 0, Casia 0, Brillantes 0
GMC 73 – Udodo 24, Jamias 13, Lozada 11, Lactaotao 6, Cabilla 5, Ihebem 5, Pujeda 4, Dumalagan 3, Pecolera 2, Villegas 0, Caasalan 0
Quarterscores: 18-17, 43-39, 67-54, 85-73

Third Game:
NU 88 – Enriquez 21, John 16, Figueroa 16, Malonzo 9, Manansala 8, Palacielo 6, Lim 5, Galinato 2, Diassana 2, Parks 2, Yu 1, Gulapa 0, Casinillo 0
Benilde 72 – Marasigan 12, Oczon 11, Carlos 10, Mara 10, Sangco 9, Corteza 6, Jarque 5, Turco 4, Lepalam 2, Dimayuga 2, Serrano 1, Cajucom 0, Flores 0, Baliquig 0, Vanguardia 0
Quarterscores: 19-18, 34-37, 51-52, 72-72, 88-72

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