UNIVERSITY of the Cordilleras (UC) Jaguars stave off a late game rally by the Baguio College of Technology Atoms to win game one of their best of three finals series in the Baguio–Benguet Educational Athletic League (BBEAL).
The defending men’s basketball champion Jaguars pulled off a hard earned 75–66 victory Monday evening at the jam-packed UC Gymnasium as it seeks for a repeat against a squad it swept last year in the championship series.
Although the Jaguars are the heavy favorite going into today’s Game 2, coach Albin Santos still believes the Atoms have enough fire power to stay in contention in the series.
“We’re not counting them out. We were just lucky enough their shooters were not doing good although our defense was a little bit shaky at times,” said Santos.
Santos added while the odds may be in their favor, he reminded his squad to stay focus and aggressive in both offense and defense.
“We need to concentrate on our defense. Nakakawala sila sa mga trap namin kaya yun yung kailangan pa ng adjustment sa Game 2,” Santos quipped.
With both teams engaging in a see-saw battle in the first half which saw six deadlocks and eight lead changes, the Jaguars slowly worked got their offensive grove in the final four minutes of the third canto enjoying a seven point lead, 58 – 51, going into the pay off period courtesy of a Julmar Ladia triple.
Ladia opened the final quarter with a shirt stab underneath the basket for a 60 – 51 count but BCT’s Kram Domingo hit back to back baskets to pull the Atoms to within five, 60 – 55, with 7:38 remaining.
The Jaguars then countered with a 7 – 0 run coming from Christian Valdez, Chester Elefante, and Krenz Trinidad for a 67 – 55 count with 5:11 remaining.
Armando Pollante however returned the favor for the Atoms as he conspired with Reynil Amargo and combined for 11 points in their 11-2 run to pull them within three, 69 – 66 with 1:22 left in the ball game.
Both squads scamper for their points in their next possession but the Jaguars closed out the ball game on a 6 – 0 run with Jhune Ric Buenvatura, Timothy Prado and Valdez scoring for the Jaguars in the final minute of the fourth stanza.
Trinidad led the Jaguars with 16 points while Ladia, who came off the bench had 12 points as Valdez and Elefante chipped in 10 markers a piece.
BCT leaned on the 17 points of Amargo while Pollante and Azzir Rabara finished with 16 each.
Game 2 is set on Wednesday, December 6, which begins at 5:00 p.m. at the CCDC Gym.