MANILA, Philippines — Mapua University head coach Atoy Co gave his rookies a passing mark but expects them to improve quickly as they continue playing in the NCAA Season 94 men’s basketball tournament.
Rookies Warren Bonifacio and Eric Jabel were both solid, if still somewhat inefficient, in Mapua’s 72-60 triumph over Jose Rizal University (JRU) on Thursday at the JRU Gym.
In his debut for the senior team after a successful stint in the Mapua High School program, Bonifacio tallied 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Jabel, another Mapua High School product, had nine points on 4-of-11 shooting, and drained huge shots in the final frame to put away the Heavy Bombers.
“I’m not yet satisfied,” Co said after the game. “They can play better than what they’ve played today.”
Co was more impressed with Jabel than Bonifacio, as he noted that the guard delivered in the fourth quarter.
“May puso ‘yung bata eh,” he noted. “‘Yung kagandahan doon, may puso. Hindi natatakot. He’s willing to take shots.”
Jabel drilled the huge triple with 6:34 left that put Mapua on top, 63-53, then added a jumper with 3:47 to go that made it 67-60, snuffing JRU’s final rally.
“Si Eric is good,” Co stressed.
Bonifacio, a lanky forward who garnered two Mythical Team selections in the NCAA juniors division, had his moments, including an athletic and-1 play to open the fourth quarter.
But Co said the young big man can be so much better.
“Warren, he can play better than that. Medyo na-pressure na, kaya nagiging butter-finger kanina,” said the coach.
Co expects both players to keep improving as the season goes on, especially as he needs both to produce at a high level for a Mapua team that lacks a superstar this year.
“Sa juniors, top players naman sila. I recruited them, I know they can help me to fill up the vacuum ng mga kulang ko,” said Co.
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