National University (NU) stamped its class over De La Salle-Zobel in Game 3, 96-75, to clinch the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 78 juniors basketball crown on Friday at The Arena in San Juan City.
Veteran Justine Baltazar had an all-around game, finishing with a double-double of 18 points and 14 rebounds, then dished out four assists, got four blocks and had a steal for the Bullpups, who claimed their third title in five years.
“Depensa talaga ang identity namin. ‘Yun ang naipakita namin sa larong ito. Nakakahinayang na hindi namin na-sweep pero mas masarap ‘yung feeling na champion kami,” said NU head coach Jeff Napa.
John Lloyd Clemente also scored a double-double effort of 15 points and 15 boards while Winderlich Coyoca provided a strong backup as he nailed 20 points.
Karl Penano chipped in 16 markers and Rhayyan Amsali contributed 11.
Baltazar was named as the Finals Most Valuable Player MVP).
“Walang nakakaalam sa inyo na may injury siya [Baltazar]. Pero palaban ‘yung bata, ayaw niyang paupuin lang namin siya talagang gusto niyang lumaro,” added Napa, a top candidate to mentor the Colegio de San Juan de Letran men’s basketball team in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Season MVP Aljun Melecio banged in 22 points while Jan Sobrevega fired 20 markers for the Junior Archers, who settled for the runner-up honors.
Last year’s titlist Ateneo de Manila University wound up third overall.
The Bullpups dominated the rebounding department with 58 boards compared to the Junior Archers’ 36 output.
NU had an impressive 51.47 field goal shooting percentage, getting 48 inside points and 19 second chance points.
La Salle-Zobel made just 25 of its 76 attempts for a poor 32.89-percent shooting clip.
The Bullpups ended the series with a 2-1 record. They won in Game 1, 78-58, before the Junior Archers claimed the Game 2 via a 71-60 decision.
EMIL C. NOGUERA