The battle of two collegiate titans did not disappoint!
In a close game, it was the rebounding ultimately proved the difference as a late Matthew Aquino putback lifted the National University Bulldogs past fellow powerhouse team Arellano University Chiefs, 68-65, to secure top seed in Group A of the 2016 FilOil Flying V Premier Cup quarterfinals Sunday afternoon.
“Before the game, we emphasized rebounding. We wanted to win this game because of rebounding,” National University head coach Eric Altamirano said. “First half we did not a good job but again yun yung nagpanalo. This season, napakaimportante ng rebounds for us.”
Behind big men Julius Cadavis and Adam Gupilan, the Chiefs were able to go on a 8-4 run capped by a Jio Jalalon fastbreak layup to gain a 59-54 lead with 5:53 remaining. After an Altamirano timeout, the Bulldogs played with renewed vigor on the defensive end while going on a 9-0 rally behind baskets by Matt Salem, Alfred Aroga, Reggie Morido, and Aquino to gain a 63-59 lead.
“I was very happy because we showed character in the game,” Altamirano added. “During the entire game we were struggling offensively but nag-hold up yung defense namin kaya hindi makalayo yung Arellano.”
Jalalon, coming back from a gold medal campaign in the 2016 Stankovic Cup, took matters into his own hands in converting on a pull-up jumper and finding Dioncee Holts on two consecutive possessions to give the Chiefs a 65-63 lead with 34 ticks remaining.
Jalalon though gave-up a costly foul against Aroga but the foreign student-athlete split his charities with 27 seconds remaining. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, Morido was their for the rebound but missed his putback attempt. Amid the confusion, Aquino found the ball and was able to compose himself for the putback.
“It was a big rebound by Reggie and Matthew Aquino,” Altamirano shared.
A costly turnover by Salado resulted to a steal by Morido and free throws by Ced Labing-isa gave NU a 68-65 lead with six seconds remaining. With no timeouts remaining, Salado found Holts who went for a hail Mary three that went way left as time expired.
Matt Salem led the Bulldogs with 15 points, all coming from distance. Chino Mosqueda was able to fill-up the statsheet with 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting from the field and 3-for-4 from the stripe, four rebounds, two assists, and a steal while Aroga grabbed 16 boards in the win.
“We just try to win and learn in each game,” Altamirano closed. “We hope to develop our character in this tournament.”
For the Chiefs, Jalalon was the only Arellano player in double-figures with 25 markers. He was also able to grab five rebounds, dish out four dimes, and successfully steal the ball twice. However, his team shot a miserable 34 percent from the field.
The NU Bulldogs (A, 6-1) will face the fourth seed of Group B on Tuesday, June 7. On the other hand, the third seed Arellano Chiefs is set to face the San Beda Red Lions on the same day.
NU (68) – Salem 15, Mosqueda 11, Aroga 7, Abatayo 7, Labing-isa 6, Aquino 6, Gallego 6, Diputado 4, Salim 4, Morido 2, Yu 0, Lastimosa 0, Go 0.
AU (65) – Jalalon 24, Holts 9, Canete 6, Flores 5, Viloria 5, Gumaru 4, Nicholls 2, Cadavis 2, Enriquez 2, Gupilan 2, Aguilar 2, Alcoriza 2, Salado 0, Meca 0, Rivera 0, Ongolo Ongolo 0.
Quarterscores: 11-18, 28-29, 48-48, 68-65.