MANILA --Raffy Celis stole the show from star teammate Jared Bahay and anchored Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu Landmasters to a dominant 99-54 blowout of Rome Elite Italy to open the 2023 Smart-NBTC National Finals presented by SM Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
The hardworking forward fired 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds to anchor the Magis Eagles' dominance inside the paint. They had a massive 54-27 rebounding advantage against the Fil-Italians.
"We just executed and we did what we practiced," said Celis as the Francis Auquico-mentored side advanced to the Division 1 of the tournament.
Bahay, the top-ranked HS player, was happy to set his teammates up and finished with seven points, five assists, four steals, and three rebounds, while Jelomar Rota scored 11.
UST also earned early entry to Division 1 after clipping Team Tarlac, 66-62.
NBTC All-Star Mark Llemit uncorked 13 points, as James Jumao-as had 12 for the Tiger Cubs.
Winnipeg slipped past Team United USA, 86-72, behind Lorence Dela Cruz' 22 points, eight boards, and three assists, as fellow Canadian squad Toronto routed St. Benilde International School, 83-63, after Gabriel Obusan's 18 points, nine rebounds, and five assists.
Losers of the Super 24 were relegated to Division 2, but will still play in the Magic 12 round-robin phase in the next two days.
All games will be livestreamed on Facebook on the NBTC, Smart Sports, and Puso Pilipinas pages.
The 2023 Smart-NBTC National Finals is powered by Smart, SM, Strong Realty and Development Corp., Under Armour, and Molten, and sponsored by Tecno, Regent, Rebisco, Jollibee, San Miguel Foundation, Maynilad, Rebel Sports Pilipinas, MNL Kingpin, Gatorade, Swish App, Victory Liner, Jasper Jean, Darlington, Exped, Coach E Basketball School, Lighthouse Events, and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.