MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) The National University (NU) Bulldogs weathered a strong final-quarter stand by the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons to escape with a 65-60 victory for their eighth win of the UAAP Season 75 men's basketball tournament Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
|The UP Fighting Maroons huddle for the last time in UAAP Season 75.
Reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player (MVP) Bobby Ray Parks came alive in the second half, scoring 15 of his 17 points in the last two quarters as the Bulldogs struggled to finish off the Maroons.
"I have high respect for UP because they're a team that never gives up, no matter what their standing is," said NU head coach Eric Altamirano, who won a championship with UP in the 1986 season.
Parks fired 13 points in the third quarter as the Bulldogs built a lead as large as 18 points, 47-29, as the Maroons' offense stalled for most of the period. But UP suddenly heated up late in the quarter, with Alvin Padilla and Jet Manuel each hitting trifectas to help the Maroons inch closer, 41-51.
Inspired by their eight graduating players, the Maroons played much better offensively in the final quarter, with Padilla and Mike Silungan leading UP's rally.
The Maroons came as close as three-points, 60-63, after a three-point play by Cris Ball.
But UP’s defense and rebounding failed them all throughout the game, and with 51 seconds to go, Ball fouled Jeoffrey Javillonar who split his charities for a four-point lead.
The Maroons still had a chance to steal the game when the Bulldogs turned the ball over with 15 seconds to go, but Padilla misfired on a three-pointer that could have made it a one-point game.
Gelo Alolino then split his charities to ice the game for NU.
"For most of the game we played according to how we wanted to play," Altamirano said. "But we just lost our focus and discipline in the third and fourth quarters."
To make matters worse for the Fighting Maroons, they were not even able to run their final play of Season 75 as they committed an inbounds pass violation with five seconds remaining in the game.
Parks, who also had six rebounds and four assists, commended the Maroons after the game.
"UP has a lot of heart and they play really hard until the final buzzer sounds," he said.
The Maroons actually kept in step with the Bulldogs in the first half, 21-30, with Parks held to only two points. But the reigning MVP suddenly exploded in the third quarter as the Bulldogs built their double-digit lead.
"I had to be more aggressive. I just wanted to help my team anyway I could," Parks said.
With the victory, the Bulldogs improved to 8-5 this season. It was the first time NU has won eight games in a season since the Final Four format was put in place.
NU also moved to fourth place in the league standings, overtaking the De La Salle Green Archers who are playing the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws as of posting.
If the Green Archers lose to the Tamaraws, then the Bulldogs will have a one-game advantage against La Salle going into their final game of the season against FEU on September 23.
"Right now, we're focusing on stopping their top players, RR (Garcia) and (Terrence) Romeo," said Altamirano. "We will be ready for the physical game of FEU."
Meanwhile, the Maroons finished the season with a 1-13 record. It was the fifth time in the past six seasons that the Maroons have finished in last place in the league standings.
Padilla led the Fighting Maroons with 14 points, while Silungan had 11 markers.
Note: Sunday's game was Mike Gamboa, Mark Lopez, Jelo Montecastro, Diony Hipolito, Alvin Padilla, Alinko Mbah, Robby Wierzb and Mike Silungan’s final game for the Fighting Maroons. The eight players are set to graduate after this season.
NU 65 - Parks 17, Mbe 13, Rosario 10, Javillonar 8, Alolino 8, Rono 3, Singh 2, Labing-isa 2, De Guzman 2, Villamor 0, Neypes 0, Khobuntin 0, Betayene 0
UP 60 - Padilla 14, Silungan 11, Mbah 8, Soyud 8, Ball 7, Manuel 3, Lopez 3, Montecastro 2, Gamboa 2, Asilum 2, Wierzba 0, Hipolito 0
Quarter-scoring: 12-11, 30-21, 51-41, 65-60