“Sabi ko sa kanila kanina, we always have to ready. When we started the winning streak, every game was a do-or-die game.” – JRU head coach Vergel Meneses
In the first game of the crucial triple header to determine playoff positioning in the last day of eliminations, the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers went all out to destroy the San Sebastian College-Recoletos Stags, 91-69 and more importantly keep their post-season hopes very much alive held at the Filoil Flying V Arena on Friday afternoon.
It was a fiery start for JRU’s Darius Estrella, who piled up his team’s first 11 points of the match in four minutes as he propelled the Bombers surge early on. Looking quicker to the ball were the Bombers who had more attempts from the field and they built a 13-7 lead with 4:53 left in the first period. However, San Sebastian countered with Michael Calisaan doing damage of his own as the guard scored nine points in the opening frame to cut the lead down to one.
As spitfire guard Paolo Pontejos made his entry to the game, he immediately punched in two triples to spark a 8-2 spurt to end the first and help JRU win the first quarter, 23-17. In the next quarter, JRU ran in transition and another Pontejos triple extended their lead to double digits for the first time at 30-19. San Sebastian responded with six quick points from Bradwyn Guinto and Jam Ortuestre.
The exchange of baskets ensued in the next possessions as a balanced contribution from the Stags enabled them to be within striking distance. In the last 3:12 of the period, Pontejos cemented his 18-point first half with a contested layup and another booming three-point shot to end the first half. JRU maintained its five point advantage at the break despite San Sebastian making more assists after two periods, 13-11.
Fortifying their momentum were the Bombers who were still hot from the field as Mark Cruz, Teytey Teodoro and Dave Sanchez combined for a 12-4 start to extend their lead to a baker’s dozen. From that point on, JRU maintained its double-digit advantage against the Stags until the final buzzer. Despite struggling from the field, Guinto scored in the points to help trim the lead, but too much firepower from the Heavy Bombers proved too much for the upset-seeking Stags.
After sitting down the entire third period, Pontejos’ reinsertion paid instant dividends offensively as he scored five straight points capped by a stepback three off-the-glass that seemingly put the nail in the coffin. On the other hand, San Sebastian had a tough time making stops on the defensive end as they were trading baskets in favor of the cruising Heavy Bombers squad.
“Nakita ko yung effort on defense especially starting nung second half,” JRU head coach Vergel Meneses remarked about the win after the game. “More effort, big chances of winning but less effort, matatalo kami.”
After not admitting that he did not feel the pressure earlier on, Meneses disclosed that there was pressure for them as the winning streak extended. “Magiging hipokrito ako pag sinabi kong hindi. Nung first two games [ng win streak] di ko pa nafeefeel yung pressure, pero nung nananalo na pumasok na,” he said. “Sabi ko sa mga players ko, tayo lang ang nakagawa ng sixth place to the final four. Remember nung second season ko, nanalo kami ng five straight and umabot pa sa Final Four.”
Paolo Pontejos led all scorers with 23 markers. He knocked down five triples and added three boards and four dimes. Seldomly used Darius Estrella made the most of his 11 minutes of game time with 11 points. Smart Elite ambassador Tey Teodoro was limited to just 20 minutes of playand scored 6 points on 3/12 shooting.
Playing his final collegiate game, Bradwyn Guinto notched a double-double with 14 points and 12 boards. He was however limited by the JRU big men in shooting just 5/18 from the field. Michael Calissan added 13 points.
As a team, the Heavy Bombers were excellent from the field in shooting at a 46% clip. They also outrebounded their opponents by a wide margin, 53-37.
With their sixth straight win, Jose Rizal U (12-6) clinched a playoff berth and will await the results of the next two games today while the San Sebastian Stags will finish the season at 7th place with a 6-12 slate.
JRU (91) – Pontejos 23, Estrella 11, Balagtas 8, Lasquety 6, Cruz 6, Teodoro 6, Grospe 6, Sanchez 5, Poutouochhi 5, Abdulwahab 4, Dela Paz 3, Dela Virgen 3, David 3, Astilla 2, Aurin 0.
SSC-R (69) – Guinto 14, Calisaan 13, Ortuoste 10, Bulanadi 7, Pretta 6, Sibal 5, Santos 4, Fabian 4, Costelo 3, Capobres 3, Bragais 0, Alvarez 0.
Quarterscores: 23-17, 43-38, 68-58, 91-69.
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