NATIONAL University (NU) despite the absence of Gelo Alolino in crunch time beat University of the East (UE), 51-49, to bag the last Final Four berth in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 77 men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Starting point guard Alolino, who finished with seven points and five rebounds, fouled out with only 1:37 left in the game leaving the Bulldogs without a leader and court general. But luck is on NU’s side allowing the Bulldogs to win the crucial do-or-die playoff game for the No. 4 spot.
After UE’s Chris Javier’s split free throws that tied the score to 49-all with 36.6 ticks to go, the Bulldogs’ 6’7 Cameroonian Alfred Aroga was fouled while attempting a shot in the shaded lane by UE 6’8 center Charles Mammie.
Aroga, who scored only seven points plus eight boards, calmly sank both free throws to give the Bulldogs the lead, 51-49, with only 12 seconds remaining.
“That was the biggest play for our season,” said NU head coach Eric Altamirano, referring to Aroga’s two free throws. “Despite our win, I have to give credit to UE because it’s hard to win five straight games and force a playoff for the last spot in the Final Four.”
Shej Roi Sumang, who led the Red Warriors with 19 points, passed the ball to an open Bong Galanza after being doubled by the Bulldogs.
But Galanza, who finished only with nine points in a terrible 1-of-8 shooting in the three-point zone, failed his three-point shot as the buzzer sounded.
Glenn Khobuntin led NU with 12 points and six boards, while Troy Rosario added nine points plus nine rebounds.
The Bulldogs will face No. 1 Ateneo De Manila University that is armed with a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four.
Far Eastern University and reigning champion De La Salle University will face each other in a playoff game for the No. 2 spot and twice-to-beat advantage on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.