JRU charges flatlining final four bid with a win over San SebastianBy Celest R. Flores
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Needing big shots to extinguish a fiery comeback by San Sebastian, Jose Rizal University netted a crucial 82-72 victory in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball competition Thursday night at the Arena in San Juan.
Byron Villarias, who’s the reason why the Bombers were leading all night, John Lopez and Romnick Mendoza hit big shots down the stretch that frustrated the pesky Stags and secured the win.
Villarias nearly matched his career best, finishing with 28 huge marks for JRU, which managed to keep San Sebastian within just two slim points in throughout the fourth.
His jumper with a little over a minute left, followed by four straight points from his teammates, ended any hopes of San Sebastian snatching the win.
The Bombers lost a seemingly safe 48-65 lead late in the third quarter to a 15-0 run by the Stags, which started off on a chasedown block by Calvin Abueva on Villarias’ fastbreak attempt.
But despite losing steam, JRU held on to the lead despite an Abueva on full-attack mindset.
JRU’s 10th victory will come a long way especially for the squad’s aim to the final four with just a game left to play in the eliminations.
“(I like) the composure of our players, they didn’t get rattled,” said head coach Vergel Meneses. “The effort was there.”
It was a particularly sweet victory for Meneses, as it marked the first time his squad defeated the mighty San Sebastian since he assumed as head coach three years ago.
“I’m happy because this was the team we really couldn’t beat in the past, this is the first win in six games against them,” said Meneses.
It has, indeed, always been a tall order to beat San Sebastian as Abueva put on an awespring performance of 26 points, 20 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks once again.
Abueva poured 20 of his total points in the second half, eight markers of which came in the run, which put them within two points early in the fourth.
Ian Sangalang added 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Stags, who are still just assured of a playoff for the final four spot with an 11-5 record.