Lady Bulldogs remain untouched, logging 97th straight win
National University (NU) fielded a new coach and a new roster in its first game in 1,044 days. But those hardly mattered Sunday morning.
This edition of the Lady Bulldogs looked just as unforgiving, pummeling University of the East, 131-47, at Mall of Asia Arena to inch closer to 100 straight wins while rewriting UAAP women’s basketball history.
“It was our statement to the UAAP that we’re back,” said Camille Clarin, who finished with 22 points and seven rebounds that went with four assists and a pair of steals in NU’s 97th straight win. The National U output now stands as the biggest by any women’s team since the league started computerizing stats in 2003.
“New coach, new players—but we still have the same culture and goals,” Clarin went on.
Five others finished in double digits as every Lady Bulldog contributed, which was the foremost thing for new coach Aris Dimaunahan.
“We’re just happy that basketball is back for the women. We’ve been waiting for too long,” the soft-spoken Dimaunahan, who took over Pat Aquino, said in Filipino moments later. “Obviously, the ladies were raring to compete. And it showed that they were hungry for competition.”
It was the first time the UAAP staged a women’s basketball tournament since the pandemic struck.
Aquino could not witness the beginning of a new era for NU as he had personal matters he had to see through that morning, but there was no denying that he was immensely delighted that the program is in good hands. “I was not able to watch the game live,” he told the Inquirer while on a break from driving. “But I heard it was a dominating win. I couldn’t be prouder with how the players performed today.”
Gilas players shineAquino steered the Lady Bulldogs to 96 victories. Within that eye-popping, unblemished run were six championships, largely contributing to a remarkable change in the way women’s basketball is viewed—and played—these days.
Karl Pingol tossed in 16 points, Kristine Cayabyab 14 and Angel Surada 10 in the scoring effort which no longer surprised Aquino, as they are mainstays in the national cage program.
“I expected Gilas players in [Camille, Karl, Kristine and Angel] to lead the pack and I’m happy that they did,” he said.
Clarin said taking things slowly is paramount for this crop of Lady Bulldogs that hopes to honor the previous batches by ensuring that the streak goes on.
“We don’t take it as though we’re part of the entire streak. It’s our responsibility to continue it for those who built it for us. So I guess just focusing on one game at a time, that’s what keeps us focused,” she said.
“Even before, even last year, the years before, we never focused on the number, you focus on the game at hand and the opponent at hand and I think we’ve always been lucky enough to have that focus on each game and the results will show,” Clarin added.
Aquino, for his part, is keeping tabs. NU can notch a 100th straight win on Oct. 12, when it plays University of the Philippines at University of Santo Tomas’ Quadricentennial Pavilion in Manila.
And Aquino believes that it is achievable, for winning has been what the Lady Bulldogs have been good at for so long now.