Posted Sep 27th 2014
Bulldogs edge Warriors to reach Final Four
By Anthony Divinagracia Posted Sep 20th 2014
Banged up National University (NU) refused to call it a season on Saturday, ending University of the East (UE)’s flirt with fortune as the Bulldogs secured their third straight Final Four appearance in the 77th UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Bulldogs shut the Final Four door on the unrelenting Warriors with a last-ditch defensive gamble that paid off handsomely in the end, 51-49, giving the now-fourth seeded NU the right to face the twice-to-beat Ateneo de Manila University.
Up by just two with 12.5 seconds left after two freethrows from Alfred Aroga, the Bulldogs denied UE spitfire Roi Sumang a crack at the basket, forcing the Warriors’ go-to-guy to give up his shot off a quick double-team outside the three-point zone.
Sumang then passed to a waiting Paul Varilla who found Bong Galanza lurking above the key. The thee-point sniping Galanza, who shot just 13 percent from the arc, pumped-faked his defender for an open triple but his shot just kissed the front end of the rim and NU import Alfred Aroga tapped the loose ball to a trailing Paolo Javelona at the buzzer.
“We wanted to make him (Sumang) give up the ball. We knew he’s going to score off those one-on-one plays or pull up for a shot that’s why we tried to double him,” NU coach Eric Altamirano said of his final defensive play that preserved their 51-49 lead for the final count.
Glen Khobuntin, playing in his final year, led the resurgent Bulldogs with 12 points, including back-to-back baskets in a 9-5 exchange that gave NU a 49-42 advantage with 3:16 left to play.
“Ayoko matapos yung final year ko ng ganun na lang kaya ginawa namin ang lahat para sa mga sumusuporta sa amin,” said Khobuntin, who also had six rebounds while tirelessly hustling and defending throughout the contest.
Sumang top-scored for the Warriors with 19 points including 13 in the fourth plus four steals and two rebounds despite playing just 20 minutes.
His and-one play off Gelo Alolino’s fifth foul and a booming triple against the outstretched arms of rookie Jess Diputado pushed the Warriors within 48-49, with 1:16 left.
Chris Javier tied the count with a split in the ensuing play.
Yet that proved to be UE’s last offensive card as NU shored up the deck with timely stops and denials before Aroga virtually sealed the contest by nailing two pressure-packed freethrows off a Charles Mammie foul.
Galanza, who was 1-of-8 from three-point range, capped his UAAP eligibility with a forgettable nine points and five turnovers. The Warriors, the season’s worst freethrow-shooting team, lived up to its billing, going just 8-of-18 (44.4 percent) from the stripe while missing four crucial gift shots from Mammie and Javier inside the last 2:35.
UE will now miss the Final Four for the fifth straight season since making the Finals in 2009 with Paul Lee, Pari Llagas, Elmer Espiritu, Rudy Linganay, and Val Acuna leading the team.
Troy Rosario backstopped Khobuntin with nine points while Alolino and Aroga added seven apiece.
NU (51) – Khobuntin 12, Rosario 9, Alolino 7, Aroga 7, Javelona 6, Beteyene 4, Alejandro 3, Perez 2, Dipitado 0, Celda 0, Neypes 0.
UE (49) – Sumang 19, Galanza 9, Mammie 8, Varilla 5, Javier 5, Arafat 2, Guian 1, Alberto 0, Olayon 0, De Leon 0, Palma 0, Jumao-as 0.
Quarter scores: 15-14, 26-21, 38-31, 51-49.