Picking up where they left off during the elimination round, the National University Lady Bulldogs showed little rust, shutting down the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws, 71-59, Saturday afternoon at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“One game away from another championship. I’m just glad and happy that we won the game. Marami pa kaming dapat gawin na adjustment,” shared Lady Bulldogs head coach Patrick Aquino, who is trying to steer his team to a fifth straight championship.
This is the Lady Bulldogs’ 79th straight win, a streak that dates back to the 77th season of the UAAP.
Having swept the elimination round, the Lady Bulldogs were granted an outright Finals berth, which meant they missed two weeks of competition. Still, NU did not take a break, facing a collegiate team from Chinese-Taipei as tune-ups.
“We had a series of games against a visiting team against Taiwan. We are happy with the opportunity to play those games but iba pa rin yung UAAP,” disclosed Aquino.
Good thing Jack Animam and Rhena Itesi willed the Lady Bulldogs in this game.
Animam scored 10 of her game-high 19 points in the opening frame. The former league Most Valuable Player tallied 12 rebounds, five assists, and five steals as well.
The Lady Bulldogs did not let up in the third canto as well, as Itesi had eight of her 13 points during that frame. NU would lead by as much as 27 points in the game, 58-31, with 1:32 left in the third frame.
Besides their offensive output, Animam, who stands at 6-foot-2, and Itesi, who is a 6-foot-4 center, took turns stifling Clare Castro. Castro was limited to just eight points after 30 minutes of game time.
“Yun ang focus namin, we have to stop Clare Castro. I’m just lucky I have two bigs with me, Rhena and Jack. They’re really big factors in the game,” shared Aquino.
Castro managed to score seven points in the final frame.
All but four players were able to score in the Lady Bulldogs for the game, with Jeanne Camelo leading the bench with 11 markers.
Aquino will have a chance to tie Norman Black for consecutive championships in the seniors division of the UAAP when the Lady Bulldogs take on the FEU Tamaraws in Game 2 of the Finals on Wednesday, December 5, at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
NU 71 – Animam 19, Itesi 13, Camelo 11, Nabalan 8, Fabruada 5, Del Carmen 4, Pingol 3, Cacho 2, Cac 2, Layug 2, Goto 2, Canuto 0, Harada 0, Ceno 0, Bartolo 0
FEU 59 – Castro 15, Taguiam 11, Bahuyan 10, Mamaril 7, Quiapo 6, Adriano 6, Antiola 4, Vidal 0, Bastatas 0, Payadon 0, Dugay 0, Rebleza 0
Quarterscores: 22-13, 37-23, 58-38, 71-59