National University, the UAAP Season 77 basketball champions, had 13 players score for their squad as they used an offensive-packed fourth quarter to put away the University of San Jose-Recoletos, 76-60, Friday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Arena, San Juan City.
The Bulldogs surprised the Jaguars at the start of the game, scoring nine consecutive points before USJR was able to sink a basket. The Jaguars’ scoring drought was ended by a Criss Galvez basket. Things didn’t get any smoother for USJR, with back-to-back baskets by Angelo Abatayo and Alfred Aroga put NU ahead by double digits, 15-4. NU, then, shut down USJR for the rest of the quarter allowing the Jaguars to score just four more points in the canto. National University’s suffocating defense proved too much for USJR, when the Bulldogs limited the Jaguars to just three made field goals in the first quarter.
The Jaguars started to heat up with James Regalado scoring on a triple on the very first play of the second quarter. Back-to-back lay-ups by NU’s Reden Celda was nullified by two more Regalado treys, followed by a Nelvin Navarra jump shot that cut USJR’s deficit to 7, 26-19. From there, National University burst into an 8-0 run, with Reggei Morido scoring on a jumper, Seny Gaye making both free throws off a fouled attempt, capped by Ronnel Lastimosa and Gaye scoring on the inside to give NU a 34-19 lead. Having less than two minutes to go before the half, the Jaguars scrambled to catch up to the Bulldogs. Down thirteen points and time running down on the clock, Raymond Catipay was able to steal the ball and hit a last second layup to bring Jaguar to within eleven entering halftime.
It seemed like NU was going to continue their domination in the third set, managing to score on two jumpers by Angelo Abatayo and Rodolfo Alejandro within the first minute of the third quarter. However, something seemed to light a fire in the Jaguar’s eyes, as the team was able to go on a 14-1 run, to come to within three points of NU, 41-38. In that run alone, USJR’s RJ Dinolan scored all seven of his points.
The reigning UAAP champions looked to have forgotten about their dismal third quarter, as they burned through the Jaguars’ defense, scoring thirteen consecutive points at the start of the fourth quarter. Seeing that his team was down by 16 points, Kevin Villafranca ended USJR’s scoring drought with a jumper, with 5:20 left in the game. The huge NU run gave the Bulldogs enough cushion to survive the Jaguars’ last comeback attempt, ending the match in the favor of the reigning UAAP champions.
Mohamad Salim was the only Bulldog to score in double digits with 10, Rev Diputado added 9, while Aroga and Celda contributed 8 points for NU. For USJR, Iron Suano led the scoring with 15, followed by Villafranca’s 12, and Regalado’s 11.
USJR will next face the runner-ups of last year’s UAAP tournament, FEU, on Saturday, May 9 at 1:30pm, while NU will go against CSB on May 13 at 5pm.
NU (76) – Salim 10, Diputado 9, Aroga 8, Celda 8, Alejandro 7, Gaye 7, Javelona 6, Abatayo 6, Neypes 4, Javillonar 4, Alolino 3, Morido 2, Lastimosa 2
USJR (60) – Suano 15, Villafranca 12, Regalado 11, Navarra 7, Dinolan 7, Galvez 4, Labares 2, Gastador 2