And for the second time around fighting for their dearest lives, Gelo Alolino pumped oxygen more than ever as he sizzled with 20 points, 15 coming in the second half including a crucial go-ahead jumper with 33.5 seconds left in the game that gave his team a precarious two-point cushion.
The Tamaraws blundered their chances of sending the game into extra period after Mike Tolomia, who led the Yellow and Green squad with 23 markers, missed a running shot as the time expired that relegated them to the number two spot despite being on top of the standings for the majority of Season 78.
Dream, Believe and Survive
Heading into this game, the NU community were all hoping that they can duplicate their last year’s Cinderella run. They wanted to believe that their championship run last season was, by all means, no fluke. And more importantly, they want to let the world know that they, the reigning titlists, can overcome the hurdles that they have been encountering in their title defense.
In this very important game of their season, there was no shortage of bench productions as graduating players Jeff Javillonar and Reden Celda remarkably contributed with nine points apiece. Of course, they would not probably won this game without their established go-to-guy scorers. The aforementioned Alolino shined in the most special way for the Bulldogs. Alfred Aroga crooked his muscles inside with another double-double performance (16 & 12).
Coach Eric Altamarino praised his players for all the efforts and unwavering trust with each other to play within the system despite a roller coaster ride this season.
The Final Four Scenario
Now we’re down to two teams that are tussling and muddling for the last Final Four slot, we’ll break down how this victory of NU implicate the current tight race.
UE Red Warriors
Well, we all did not considered the Recto-based squad to be in this situation, given what has transpired in the offseason. But by notching several big victories, the Red Warriors still managed to crawl up in the hunt for the last Final Four slot. If not only for the defeat they suffered against the Adamson Falcons, we will probably see a three-way slugfest for the fourth place. They also showed mastery over the defending champions by beating them twice this season.
Who’s in? (for at least a play off for the last spot)
De La Salle Green Archers
Before the season started, the Green Archers were considered as one of the contenders despite the losses of key players from their championship run two seasons ago. The delay of Ben Mbala’s arrival to the UAAP scene has proven to be a critical factor as to why they struggled this season. They could have easily avoided their current standing if not for their late-game clumsiness. And for their last game of the elimination round, they will grind it out against the number two seed FEU Tamaraws. Should they pull a victory out in that match, they will be setting a clash against the streaking National University for the coveted last slot at the Final Four bus.
Of course, the NU Bulldogs
Oh! The reigning champs are still alive and kicking! They have to ride on a crest of three-game winning run just to be in this place. They have just to wait for the result of DLSU-FEU game to decide their post in the standings.
A seemingly safe playoff battle is already in place for NU. Expect a much tougher way as the Season 78 goes deeper. Though it will not be an easy one just like the past season, the Bulldogs will prove that they can still go all the way despite a big hurdle.