National U on course for 3-hoop c’ship featBy Jasmine W. Payo |Philippine Daily Inquirer
National University stayed on track for a rare feat after emerging as the surprise No. 1 team in all three UAAP basketball divisions.
After languishing in the cellar for decades, NU climbed to the top with a 10-4 record in the men’s division, 12-2 in women’s play and 14-0 in the juniors to put itself in a position to become the first school in 20 seasons to sweep the sport.
“It’s a blessing that we’re not in the bottom anymore,” said King Bulldog Ray Parks. “It’s all about the hard work and dedication the entire team put in. Everybody played a key role.”
The Bulldogs claimed the twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four for the first time in school history after wrapping up their elimination run with a league-best 10-4 record.
But the Bulldogs will only know their opponent tomorrow when Ateneo and University of Santo Tomas, the two finalists last season, battle for the last Final Four berth at 4 p.m. at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Far Eastern University and La Salle are pitted in the other semifinal duel, but both will still dispute the last twice-to-beat bonus at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“We’re satisfied with how we have transformed and evolved from the first round to the second round,” said NU coach Eric Altamirano. “But then again, the Final Four is different. It’s important that we stay focused and tough.”
In juniors action, the Bullpups earned an outright championship berth after an incredible 14-0 sweep of the elimination round.
The Bullpups, bannered by John Cauilan, Hubert Cani and Mark Dyke, secured a thrice-to-beat bonus in the finals as the next three teams slug it out in the stepladder semifinals.
The Lady Bulldogs also need to win just once in the Final Four after ruling the women’s eliminations with a 12-2 card.
NU aims to be the first school to sweep the basketball event since 1994, when University of Santo Tomas pulled off the three-title feat.
Meanwhile, Parks bagged the Accel 3XVI UAAP Press Corps Player of the Week award after leading the Bulldogs to a 70-65 tripping of defending champion Ateneo at the end of their elimination run last Wednesday.