For the second straight year, a Mapua Cardinal was crowned as the Skills Challenge champion, as JP Nieles blitzed past Saint Benilde rookie Unique Naboa to open the festivities of the NCAA Season 93 All-Star Day, Friday afternoon at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
“Masaya na nakaka-tense na masarap sa feeling. Kahit down kami, na-prove ko na kaya pa rin namin mag-step up,” Nieles said as Mapua has struggled in the first round with a 1-8 slate.
And Nieles, who is coming off a year away due to ACL surgery, studied the performance of last season’s champion and former Cardinal Shane Menina coming into the event.
“Bago ako pumunta dito, chineck ko si Shane, 24.6 seconds yung kailangan ko, na-insipre ako sa ginawa niya,” Nieles, who clocked in the fastest time in the opening round with 20.7 seconds, said.
The heads-up finale was not a breeze in the park for Nieles, though. During the third line, the lay-up drill, his ball had gotten stuck between the net, resulting in a little downtime.
“Gusto ko kunin kaso pa-layup din siya eh,” he recalled.
But Nieles drilled the closing triple to seal the crown.
Nieles and Naboa qualified for the finale by outlasting Letran’s Jeremiah Taladua, who logged in 27.5 ticks during the prelims, and Lyceum’s Jaycee Marcelino, 25.8 seconds.
Other participants in the event include San Sebastian’s Michael Are, San Beda’s Radge Tongco, JRU’s Aaron Bordon, EAC’s Jervin Guzman, Perpetual’s Keith Pido, and Arellano’s Levi Dela Cruz.