Bullpups, Eaglets clash in UAAP juniors finals anew
MANILA, Philippines—National University knocked out La Salle-Zobel, 61-54, in the stepladder semifinals to forge a championship rematch with Ateneo in the UAAP Season 77 juniors’ basketball tournament.
Justine Salazar towed the back-to-back seeking Bullpups into the finals with a 13-point, 11-rebound perfomance. John Clemente and Mark Dyke provided solid back up with 14 and nine markers, respectively.
Throwing his weight around in the paint, the 6-foot-6 Baltazar helped NU zoom into an early lead by scoring 11 straight in the first seven minutes of the game. The Bullpups never trailed after that.
The Bullpups, though, have a mammoth task to face in the finals as they face an Ateneo side armed with a thrice-to-beat advantage for sweeping the double-round eliminations.
The finals begin on Friday at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
NU has clinched both the men’s and women’s basketball crowns early in the season and is eyeing to be the first school since University of Santo Tomas in the mid-90s to win the triple championship in the league’s centerpiece sport.
Though they are the underdogs against the Eaglets, head coach Jeff Napa, a former Bulldog, remains unfazed.
“The harder the road, the sweeter (the victory) will be,” said Napa in Filipino.
Aljun Melecio had 15 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists, while Joaquin Banzon added 14 points and six boards for the Junior Archers.
Despite having a young roster, La Salle-Zobel overachieved by finishing ahead of much-heralded teams like Adamson University and Far Eastern University-Diliman.
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