Colegio de San Juan de Letran Head Coach, Aldin Ayo, is making a mark in his debut tournament in leading his team to a quarterfinals berth in the 2015 Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup.
The CSJL Knights displayed great hustle in 40 minutes of action in a 59-56 win over the National University Bulldogs, 59-56, late Wednesday afternoon, at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan City.
Rey Nambatac and Jeric Balanza did not play in the game as Nambatac sustained an eye injury (laceration) during practice, and will be out for the rest of the tournament. Balanza, on the other hand, was still feeling the effects of a sore hip sustained during the team’s win against the CSB Blazers. For the Bulldogs, Gelo Alolino did not play as well, due to a shoulder injury sustained in a tune-up in Dumaguete City.
Both teams went toe-to-toe on offense in the first quarter, as both teams displayed intense defense that set the tone for the entire contest. Sophomore Point Guard, Rev Diputado sparked the Bulldogs in scoring five points in the quarter. On the other end, big man Jomari Sollano stretched the floor well for the Knights in converting on jumpers to put up seven points in the quarter. A three pointer by the returning Pao Javelona with 39 seconds remaining in the tied the game at 15-all to end the opening quarter.
Undersized Power Forward, Felix Apreku anchored the CSJL defense with his amazing hustle and pressing defense. After a 23-all deadlock with 6:33 remaining, the Bulldogs were only able to punch in just two points the rest of the way leading into halftime. During that span, Mark Cruz scored eight straight points and was able to assist on an Apreku layup to give CSJL a 30-25 lead. A runner by Apreku with 2:12 remaining gave the Knights 32-25 to go into halftime.
Behind Apreku, the Knights were able to extend their lead to 40-31 late in the third quarter. Jay Alejandro and Rden Celda, however, sparked a 7-2 rally to end the quarter to stay in reach of the Knights 42-38.
After a three pointer by Bong Quinto, the Bulldogs fortified their defense that help cut the CSJL lead to two. The big men of Letran, however, quelled all possible rallies by their opponents with timely shots in the post. With 1:23 remaining, Jay Alejandro came alive in making clutch baskets to cut the deficit to just a solitary point 57-56 with 22.4 seconds remaining. However, a costly turnover by Jeoff Javillonar led to a steal and a layup by Apreku to give CSJL a three-point lead. Free throws by Javelona was able to cut the lead back down to one but a conversion by Cruz sealed the game for the Knights.
In an interview after the game, Coach Aldin Ayo was pleased with how the undersized CSJL squad limited the big men of NU, especially Felix Apreku, “walang ibang gagawin yun kung hindi manggulo. Tuloy-tuloy lang ang pagtakbo, pagtalon, and pagset niya ng screen. Malaking asset talaga siya and naka-double-double pa.” Moreover, the win over one of his mentors, Eric Altamirano, felt like it vindicated his decision to move back to Manila. “Feel ko proud si Coach Eric sa akin dahil sa panalo na ito.”
Mark Cruz led all scorers with 16 points on just 33% shooting with four rebounds, two assists, and three steals. Felix Apreku grabbed a double double with 13 points and 10 rebounds on just 24 minutes of play, and limiting the young Seny Gaye to just two points and five rebounds. On the other hand, Rden Celda led NU with 15 points, while Jay Alejandro scored 13.
The CSJL Knights are now assured a spot in the quarterfinals. For the NU Bulldogs, however, it gets trickier. An FEU loss this Friday and an NU win against the Altas will be the only chance of NU to advance to the next round.
CSJL 59 – Cruz 16, Apreku 13, Sollano 12, Quinto 7, Publico 7, Calvo 4, Luib 0, Manlangit 0, Dela Peña 0
NU 56 – Celda 15, Alejandro 13, Diputado 7, Javelona 7, Neypes 5, Javillonar 3, Gaye 2, Abatayo 2, Morido 2, Rangel 0, Salim 0, Senining 0
|CSJL (A, 6-2)||15||32||42||59|
|NU (A, 4-3)||15||25||38||56|