National U bucks UP; Eight Maroons play their final gameBy Celest R. Flores
MANILA, Philippines—National University secured a 65-60 win over University of the Philippines in its penultimate assignment in the elimination round in the 75th UAAP men’s basketball competition at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Bulldogs bucked a scare down the stretch as the gritty Maroons stormed back, leaning on the one-two-punch of Bobby Ray Parks and Emmanuel Mbe to carry them through.
Parks scored 17 points, six rebounds and four assists while Mbe added 13 points and 14 boards for NU, which hiked its record to 8-5.
“For most of the game we played according to how we want to play. We just lost our focus and discipline in the third and the fourth,” said head coach Eric Altamirano.
A split from the stripe in the final 48 ticks from Jelo Alolino and Jeff Javilionar iced the game as NU held on to a precarious advantage in the face of a UP squad trying to snatch a final win.
The Bulldogs cruised to an 18-point lead halfway the third period, but allowed the pesky Maroons to slowly gain momentum and come within single digits.
NU kept on repulsing every UP run in the fourth with Mbe and Parks delivering the jabs, but the Maroons finally pulled within just three, 60-63, with a minute left.
“I have high respect for UP because they’re a team that never gives up, no matter what their standing is,” said Altamirano of the opponents.
A reverse putback by Chris Ball off a miss by Mark Lopez made it a one-possession game, but UP botched all of its attempts in the ensuing possession including a tough shot by Raul Soyud and a trey from Alvin Padilla.
The Maroons, who pushed a lot of teams to the brink this year, finished dead last for the fifth time in the last six season with a 1-13 card.
Mike Silungan, Mark Lopez, Mike Gamboa, Diony Hipolito, Jelo Montecastro, Alinko Mbah, Robby Wierzba and Padilla all played their last game in a Maroons jersey.
Padilla and Silungan paced UP for the last time with 14 and 11 markers, in that order.