MANILA, Philippines?James Martinez fueled University of the East?s late-game surge and the Warriors turned back the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals, 92-74, at the start Monday of the 2008 Philippine Collegiate Championship zonals at the Makati Coliseum.
Martinez buried back-to-back triples in a 14-2 UE binge with five minutes to go to seal the win that gave the Warriors the lead in Group D play.
Pari Llagas topscored with 23 points and nine rebounds, while Martinez finished with 17 markers for the Warriors, who bucked the absence of stars Marcy Arellano and Hans Thiele.
?We have at least seven players who haven?t been regularly practicing with us because they?re also practicing with their teams in the PBL [Philippine Basketball League],? said UE coach Dindo Pumaren.
Earlier, Orlando Daroya knocked in 22 points as the Arellano University Chiefs overwhelmed Region 1 champ St. Louis University, 82-36, in Group B action.
University of Luzon also gained headway in Group A after tripping Lyceum of Batangas, 79-62.
The top team in each group will earn a berth in the ?Sweet 16? finals of the tournament that gathers the top varsity squads in the country.
Backstopped by the lanky Ruel Jabaybay, the Generals mounted repeated comebacks in the second half to wipe out the Warriors? 15-point edge, 54-39, and move within four at 73-69.
Llagas and Elmer Espiritu, who chipped in 13 points, three steals and two blocks, kept the Warriors on top, before Martinez took over.
Raffy Reyes, son of ex-pro Elmer Reyes, added 10 markers, while Paul Lee delivered an all-around game of six points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals for the Warriors.
UAAP champion Ateneo de Manila University and runner-up De La Salle University and NCAA titlist San Beda College and second placer Jose Rizal University, along with four other varsity champions, clinched outright slots in the Sweet 16.
The winner of the national tournament will represent the country in the Universiade Games in Serbia and bag a P1-million total cash prize.
ARELLANO 82?Daroya 22, Ciriacruz 9, Melaño 9, Del Rosario 8, Apostol 7, Rivera 6, Agustin 6, Virtuolazo 4, Miranda 4, Celada 3, Anquillo 2, Limboy 2.
ST. LOUIS 36?Rosales 8, Alimba 6, Garbonza 6, Jimenez 5, Depuña 5, Torio 4, Ang 2.
Quarters: 21-6, 41-20, 67-31, 82-36
UNIV. OF LUZON 79?Ilao 21, Panunciar 18, Sabordo 12, Cubo 11, Santos 5, Cubo 4, Caiña 4, Clores 4.
LYCEUM-BATANGAS 62?Velarde 16, Reyes 14, Katigbac 10, Busamante 8, Bautista 4, Marasigan 4, Caranto 2, Ducay 2, Villanueva 2.
Quarters: 19-15, 34-32, 53-52, 79-62
UE 92?Llagas 23, Martinez 19, Espiritu 13, Reyes 10, Bandaying 6, Lee 6, Zamar 5, Acuña 4, Tagarda 2, Noble 2, Etrone 2.
EAC 74?Jabaybay 21, Mendoza 17, Pupos 15, Quiambao 8, Yaya 7, Santos 4, Fotue 2, Cubo 0, Chong 0, Liwag 0.
Quarters: 24-20, 45-34, 64-57, 92-74