In what was more of a formality, the National University Lady Bulldogs secured their sixth straight Finals appearance after pounding the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws, 68-44, Friday afternoon at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
This is NU’s 78th straight win in the UAAP Women’s Basketball division. But for Lady Bulldogs head coach Patrick Aquino, he is simply relieved to have this over with as they gun for their fifth straight crown.
“I’m just happy na na-survive namin uli yung fourteen (game sweep) uli,” he admitted. “We’re just waiting for the championship kung sino man, but still yung job namin is not yet done. We hope na we get the championship, that’s the most important thing this season.”
Reigning Most Valuable Player Jack Animam and Congolese student-athlete Rhena Itesi towed the Lady Bulldogs to a sweep. Animam finished with 19 points, 18 rebounds, two steals, and a block. Itesi added 14 points and 14 rebounds.
“I was really not expecting. Ito yung sabihin na natin na takot ako na one of these days baka matalo, this was this batch kasi not really the maturity but wala pa ako nakikitang nagiging leader doon sa group na ito but eventually lumalabas isa isa,” he shared. “Bawat game, iba-iba yung nagiging hero. I’m just happy na at least from the start hanggang ngayon nag pepeak na or what you call peak. I’m just happy.”
With the two guarding the fort, the Lady Bulldogs limited the Lady Tamaraws to two single-digit quarters. Moreover, they stifled the aces of the Lady Tamaraws.
Clare Castro, who was averaging 16.5 points and 12.17 rebounds per game prior, was limited to just six points and eight boards. Valerie Mamaril, on the other hand, had just nine points – down 5.67 points from her norms.
With the two Lady Tamaraws ineffective, NU would lead by as much as 29 points, 68-39, with 1:57 left.
Kaye Pingol and Ria Nabalan had nine and seven points, respectively, as Nabalan struggled from the field.
NU will have at least a three-week break before heading to the Finals. But Aquino and the Lady Bulldogs will not get to rest.
“Like the same thing we’ve been doing. We’ll have a team building this next weekend and we’ll continue working hard, tignan kung ano yung flaws namin,” he disclosed. “Continue what advantage and disadvantage yung mga nakikita namin and then we’ll have practice games again with the boys like we did last few years back yung mga past season, yun ginagawa namin.”
FEU, on the other hand, will figure in a playoff for second place with the Adamson Lady Falcons on Wednesday, November 3, as both teams are sporting a 9-5 slate. The winner will pick up an automatic semis berth, while the loser will face a a do-or-die match with either the DLSU Lady Archers or the UST Growling Tigresses.
NU 68 — Animam 19, Itesi 14, Pingol 9, Nabalan 7, Del Carmen 6, Camelo 6, Fabruada 4, Bartolo 2. Goto 1, Canuto 0, Cacho 0, Cac 0, Harada 0, Ceno 0, Layug 0.
FEU 44 –– Mamaril 9, Quiapo 9, Castro 6, Antiola 5, Adriano 5, Bahuyan 4, Bastatas 2, Abat 2, Vidal 2, Taguiam 0, Payadon 0, Dugay 0.
Quarterscores: 20-9, 35-21, 54-30, 68-44.