It took 60 years, but for National University the wait was worth it.
The Bulldogs claimed the UAAP men’s basketball trophy on Wednesday with a masterful 75-59 win over Far Eastern University at the Araneta Coliseum.
It was only NU’s second title in the league. It last won the championship in 1954.
The Bulldogs also became the only fourth-ranked team to win a title since the Final Four format was implemented in 1994.
NU won the best-of-three championship series, 2 games to1. The Tamaraws took Game 1, 75-70, but the Bulldogs forced the winner-take-all match with a 62-47 victory in Game 2.
“There’s something special about this team,” said NU head coach Eric Altamirano. “This team just did not give up. They refused to lose and I think that’s the character of this team.
There’s a sense of unity and collective spirit among them. They really love playing for each other.”
The Bulldogs came up with a balanced attack as four players scored in double figures, capped by a career-high 24-point performance from Cameroonian Alfred Aroga. The 6-foot-7 center also grabbed 18 rebounds and had two blocks.
Gelo Alolino delivered 12 points, five boards and two assists, while Glenn Khobuntin and Rodolfo Alejandro contributed 10 points each before a sellout crowd of 25,138 at the Big Dome.
Aroga was named the Finals’ Most Valuable Player after averaging 16.0 points and 13.0 rebounds in the series. He received a P30,000 cash prize from actress Anne Curtis.
“I’m really thankful we’re able to get Alfred [Aroga]. He’s not just a good player. He’s really a good person. He brought a sense of leadership and also the way he handles himself on and off the court,” Altamirano said.
It was Altamirano’s first collegiate title. He already holds two championships in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA): the 1997 All-Filipino Conference with Purefoods and the 1998 Centennial Cup with Mobiline.
Altamirano was named Coach of the Season and received a P50,000 prize.
NU swept the basketball competitions, with the undefeated Lady Bulldogs ruling the women’s division.