Jose Rizal U coach Vergel Meneses challenged his wards to get back at their first-round tormentors and the Heavy Bombers gamely obliged.
Saving their best for last, JRU shocked the Mapua Cardinals on Thursday, carving out a 65-60 victory to open their second-round campaign in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tourney on a high note at The Arena in San Juan City.
Riding the crest of a 79-73 stunner against pace-setting San Beda last week, JRU flashed its deadly form in time, with top gunner Teytey Teodoro leading the way to avenge a close 71-74 setback against Mapua in their initial meeting last June 25.
The southpaw Teodoro banged in seven of his game-high 22 points in the final frame, including a booming triple and a gutsy lay-up that helped the Heavy Bombers break away from the Cardinals and enjoy a 65-58 cushion with 1:18 left to play.
Chiefly backing up Teodoro were the likes of Ervin Grospe and Gio Lasquety who made timely buckets in the fourth along with Cameroonian big man Abdoulad Poutouochi.
Poutouochi played a big defensive role as he helped slow down Mapua counterpart Allwell Oraeme, the league’s reigning MVP, enabling JRU to notch its second straight win and fifth overall in 10 matches and keeping itself close to the fourth and final semifinals spot.
“Sabi ko sa kanila, ‘pag hindi natin tinalo ‘yung mga tumalo sa atin sa first round, next year na tayo makakabawi. Isang taon ulit ang hihintayin natin, napakatagal. Ngayon bawian na natin,” said Meneses, sounding pleased that the Heavy Bombers are starting to play true to their full potential with their two-game winning streak.
“I told them that it’s been a roller coaster ride (in the first round). Ganun ang trend namin. It’s about time, this second round, hindi tayo pwedeng matalo,” he added. “The desire to win, the willingness to sacrifice and share the ball, andu’n na. ‘Yun ang hindi ko makita nu’ng first round.”
Those key aspects, however, cannot be found among the Cardinals, who failed to secure crucial rebounds inside the final minute despite the presence of the 6-foot-9 Oraeme and versatile forward Joseph Eriobu.
The loss dropped them to 6-4 as they precariously hold the no. 4 spot in the standings.
Winning over the Red Lions also stoke the fire under the Heavy Bombers, according to Meneses.
“Malaking tulong yun compared if we came from a loss, ‘yung morale ng team mababa ‘yan. Iba ‘yung pakiramdam na galing ka sa panalo tapos ang tinalo mo pa, Goliath,” he said.
Oraeme led Mapua with 15 points and a game-high 19 rebounds but accounted for seven of the team’s 21 turnovers, which JRU turned into 12 markers. – Jerome Lagunzad
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JRU 65 – Teodoro 22, Grospe 14, Pontejos 8, Poutouochi 5, Dela Paz 5, Dela Virgen 5, Lasquety 4, Cruz 2, Abdulrazak 0, Astilla 0.
Mapua 60 – Oraeme 15, Eriobu 11, Menina 11, Isit 8, Serrano 6, Estrella 4, Orquina 3, Victoria 2, Biteng 0, Bunag 0.
Quarterscores: 19-18, 35-32, 45-49, 65-60.