Losing their key players at crunch time did not stop the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos Rams from humbling defending champion West Negros University Mustangs, 106-103, in a double overtime thriller of the 32nd NOPSSCEA men’s basketball last night at the USLS Coliseum.
In the second game, Colegio San Agustin Eagles blew away host USLS Stingers, 81-60, to share the 2-1 win-loss card with the Rams and the Mustangs after the first round of the eliminations.
Bouncing back from an opening day loss to the Eagles, the Rams got back its rhythm against the Stingers, 85-74, Saturday night at the CSA-B Gym, while the Mustangs, for the second time, got away with a four-point win, 69-65, against the Eagles.
Last night’s victory against the Mustangs boosted the Rams morale as head coach Rolando “Gerome” Aledron cited his players for playing an excellent game.
“Our second stringers stepped up when our key players got into foul trouble early in the game,” Aledron said, referring to Joemel Paderog and Cedrick Eslabon absorbing their third foul early in the third quarter.
The Rams were in control of the game, leading as much as 14 points at 36-22 with 5:25 left in the second quarter en route for a 43-36 halftime lead after taking the first quarter at 19-17.
Surviving on free throws as the UNO-R Rams got into penalty middle of the third quarter, the WNU Mustangs cut the lead to two points, 53-51, on Jeramer Cabanag’s three-point play with 4:21 left.
Refusing to yield the momentum to the defending champions, Paderog hit back-to-back baskets late in the third quarter to give the Rams a six-point lead, 57-51, going into the payoff period.
While the lead ballooned to 12 points at 73-61 with 5:50 left in the game, the Rams, once again, got into foul trouble and yielded precious points to the Mustangs from the free throw line.
A three-point play from Catalino with 2:33 left put the Mustangs a basket behind the Rams, then the diminutive rookie Lorenz Solomon tied the score at 75-all at 2:09.
As the Rams tried to hold on to a two-point lead, Paderog was charged for his fifth foul, leaving behind his teammates to deal with the Mustangs for the remaining seconds of the game.
Despite the heightened tension inside the Coliseum, the referees and tournament officials managed to keep the game under control as both squads sent the game into its first over time with the score tied at 80-all.
Asked to comment about the officiating, Rams coach Aledron said “everything was part of the game” and if they reacted strongly against some of the calls from the referees, it was also “part of the game”.
In the first overtime, Praislee Geralde put the Mustangs ahead by two-points, but the Rams immediately equalized and regain the lead on a three-point play from Calma.
Keeping their composure in the dying minutes of the first overtime, WNU grabbed the lead at 86-85 of a jumper from Cabanag, while Rashmore Catalino made it a three-point lead, 88-85 as he converted two free throws.
The Rams, however, still had a couple of aces up their sleeves as John Dayumat and Fred Jay Parreño hit two field goals for an 89 deadlock.
The Mustangs had the chance to win the game but Kervie Andrada’s attempt off a pass from Cabanag failed to go in.
It was the same story in the second overtime as both squads traded baskets but the Rams eventually prevailed as the Mustangs absorbed their first loss in this year’s NOPSSCEA tournament.*NAB
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