With the National University Lady Bulldogs on the verge of making history, Ria Nabalan made sure that she would also go down in the books.
During NU’s 72nd straight win, the graduating Lady Bulldog dropped 40 points to lead her team to a 111-64 victory over the De La Salle University Lady Archers – the last team to ever beat the four-time defending champions.
With this, Nabalan became the third player in league history to reach 40 points in the women’s division.
Raiza Palmera first breached the 40-point mark, scoring 44 points back in August 2, 2011, during the FEU Lady Tamaraws’ 85-80 victory over the UE Lady Warriors.
A year later – August 15, 2012 to be exact – Allana Lim followed suit, tallying 45 points on 22-of-23 shooting. The Team Pilipinas standout outscored the Lady Warriors on her own, as FEU took an 85-43 win over UE.
But the 22-year-old Nabalan did not know that she was about to reach 40 points during the final frame of NU’s 111-64 win over the DLSU Lady Archers.
“Actually, hindi ko alam kung hindi sinabi sa akin ng teammates ko,” admitted Nabalan, who already tallied 15 points in the opening quarter of the game. By the half, she already had 20 markers.
Even with the Lady Bulldogs holding a lead that went to as high as 53 points, NU head coach Patrick Aquino continued to field Nabalan, as she was having one of those nights.
“Sobrang happy, sobrang happy that everything was falling for (Nabalan), and it’s only once-in-a-lifetime na makakuha siya ng forty points. Sobrang saya,” beamed Aquino.
With 1:29 left, Nabalan was fouled by Charmaine Torres. She missed her first free throw, but she made sure to convert on the second one to reach 40.
“Masaya po. Kasi hindi ko magagawa yung kung ‘di dahil sa coaches ko at sa mga teammates ko,” a jubilant Nabalan expressed.
And her 40-point outing could not have come at a better time, as this batch of Lady Bulldogs were facing the last team that gave her school a taste of defeat.
One-thousand, eighty-four days ago, the Lady Archers handed the Lady Bulldogs a heartbreaking 61-69 loss to win the UAAP Season 76 Women’s Basketball Championship.
Back then, Nabalan had just been in high school, as she was in her final year at Chiang Kai Shek College. When she joined NU, she made sure that her seniors would suffer no more losses.
“Sinasabi ng mga senior namin nun na gusto nilang bumawi. Sayang yung opportunity nila nun eh. So kami-kaming mga rookie, nagsikap kami na ibawi sila sa La Salle,” she shared.
“Sila Sam Paig, sila [Tin] Abriam, Gemma Miranda, Afril Bernardino, Andrea Tongco, at Trixie Antiquera ang mga seniors ko nun.”
Five years later, Nabalan is now the eldest stateswoman. But even with the streak and the championships, she maintains the same mindset as she had during her rookie year.
“One game at a time pa rin. Yun na yung motto ng team namin, one game at a time.”
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