NU-Nazareth School pulled off a gutsy 91-90 double-overtime thriller over Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu Landmasters to keep its three-peat drive alive in the 2023 Smart-NBTC National Finals presented by SM on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
RJ Colonia dropped 29 points, four rebounds, four assists, and three steals, including the game-sealing free throws with 5.9 seconds left to put the Bullpups up by four.
Jared Bahay still banked a three to cut the lead down to one, but the clock was just not on the Magis Eagles’ side.
“Sabi ko lang sa mga boys, kapit at kaya namin ito. Ito yung character-building win na hinahanap namin kaya sinabi lang namin, walang bibitaw,” said Bullpups coach Kevin de Castro as his side advanced to the championship game of this tilt sponsored by Smart, SM, Strong Realty and Development Corp., Under Armour, and Molten.
It was a classic matchup between NUNS’ Reinhard Jumamoy, who tallied 23 points, 12 boards, eight assists, and six steals, and Bahay, who shot five treys for his 23 points, five dimes, and four boards, as the two proved why they’re the top young playmakers in the country today.
Elijah Yusi also stepped up for the Bullpups with 21 points as the back-to-back defending champions get the final chance to stop rampaging Fil-Nation Select USA in the final, Sunday still at the same venue.
Michael Asoro played big for SHS-Ateneo with five triples for 27 points and six rebounds, including the corner three that sent the game into the first overtime, while Raffy Celis had a double-double of 16 points and 10 boards in this tough yet valiant loss.
Fil-Nation Select-USA earlier nipped UST, 74-66, to become the first international team to make it to the championship game.
Caelum Harris finally flashed his potential and uncorked 12 points and three rebounds, while Jacob Bayla got 11 points and three boards.
Fil-Nation Select, though, still had to use an 8-3 run to finish the game, capped off by a Sean Alter dunk in the final minute. It also survived Mark Llemit’s 27 points on a 4-of-5 clip from deep, to go with four rebounds, four steals, and two assists.
The Division 1 Finals is set at 5 p.m. and will be shown live on SNBTC Facebook page, as well as Smart Sports and Puso Pilipinas.
It’s the main event of this five-day tourney after the Girls Have Next Finals at 9 a.m., the Under Armour-NBTC All-Star Game at 12 p.m., and the Division 2 Finals between Team Tarlac and Royal Star Trading Don Bosco Dumaguete at 3 p.m.
The national championship tournament also supported by Tecno, Regent, Rebisco, Jollibee, San Miguel Corp., Maynilad, Rebel Sports Pilipinas, MNL Kingpin, Gatorade, Swish App by NBN23, Victory Liner, Jasper Jean, Darlington, Exped, Mr. Freeze, Coach E Basketball School, Lighthouse Events, and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.