Jose Rizal U coach Vergel Meneses remains far from satisfied with the Heavy Bombers’ collective form. But for the meantime, he’s quite pleased that they are still in the hunt.
Banking on its renewed defensive vigor in the stretch, JRU outlasted San Sebastian College in a frantic finish on Tuesday night 68-62 to put its 92nd NCAA seniors basketball campaign back on track at The Arena in San Juan City.
Up by five at the start of the final canto, the Heavy Bombers went on a four-minute dry spell, highlighted by four costly turnovers, that allowed the Golden Stags, led by diminutive guard Ryan Costelo, to regain control and take a 57-54 lead with over three minutes to play.
But JRU, with Cameroonian import Abdoulad Poutouochi providing the spark and top gunner Tey Teodoro drilling in a booming triple, charged back with a telling 14-5 windup to claim their third win in seven matches, overtaking the suddenly-struggling Lyceum for the sixth spot.
San Sebastian, which led by as many as 12 points early but ran out of steam in the crunch, dropped its seventh straight match for a 1-7 record, still at ninth place overall.
Meneses, however, said he’s still puzzled with his wards’ unpredictable plays.
“We cannot figure it out,” he said during the post-match interview. “Hindi namin alam, like for us coaches, kung ano ‘yung pagkukulang namin. I think nagagawa naman namin ang lahat ang lahat. Maybe pine-pressure nila ‘yung sarili nila. At the same time, lack of effort and big heart.”
Good thing for Meneses, the Heavy Bombers firmly stood their ground in the stretch.
“Down the stretch, our defense was there,” he pointed out. “We made stops then we converted on the other end.”
The biggest among the converted baskets in the critical juncture came from Teodoro, who knocked down his third and final triple atop the key for a 63-59 cushion with 73 seconds left to play.
Poutouochi, who had nine points and eight rebounds, and Ghanaian teammate AbdulRazak AbdulWahab, who hauled down a game-high 13 boards, certainly made their presence felt this time.
But Meneses is craving for more from the JRU reinforcements.
“Hindi pa rin siya ‘yun,” he stressed, referring to Poutouochi. “Hindi ‘yun ang hinihingi ko sa kanya. We struggled in our four losses because of them. Hindi nila kami nabigyan ng tulong.”
With a pair of tough matches ahead against Arellano U on Friday and host San Beda on August 9, Meneses still finds some precious time to relish where they currently stand.
“Okay na rin ‘yung nasa number 6 kaysa sa number 9 or number 10,” he said. “I hope we make a run in our remaining games and in the second round.”
Costelo finished with 18 markers while Allyn Bulanadi tallied 15 points for the Golden Stags. – By Jerome Lagunzad
JRU (68) – Teodoro 18, Dela Virgen 12, Grospe 10, Poutouochi 9, Pontejos 6, Lasquety 4, Abdul Wahab 4, Dela Paz 2, Cruz 2, Dada 1, Evardo 0, Astilla 0
SAN SEBASTIAN (62) – Costelo 18, Bulanadi 15, David 8, Calisaan 6, Mercado 4, Ilagan 4, Johnson 3, Sera Josef 2, Capobres 2, Baetiong 0, Quipse 0,Valdez 0, Fabian 0
Quarterscores: 9-18, 27-33, 50-47, 68-62.