GREAT players come up big when the game is on the line.
Facing an eight point deficit late in the fourth quarter, Ateneo de Davao coach Miggy Solitaria looked at the end of his bench then gambled on putting back his foul-plagued go-to guy, Francis Gabriel Escandor.
The gamble paid off as Escandor jumped onto the floor like a man possessed.
The next five minutes saw the 6-2 Escandor string up five three-pointers and just like that, the Blue Knights wiped out that lead and took the SM-NBTC Davao title, 75-73, over defending champion Assumption College of Davao on Sunday at the ADDU Jacinto Gym.
“I know it’s a big risk but I needed a last card to overcome that lead,” said Solitaria after the Blue Knights took their first ever NBTC local title while denying Assumption College of Davao a rare four-peat.
“He (Escandor) just played awesome in the clutch and the rest of the guys also played with their hearts out. I’m so proud of my boys,” Solitaria added.
With the win, the Blue Knights will now represent Davao City in the National Championships on March 11-16 to be played at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The two teams battled to a tight first half, which ended in a 35-all deadlock. With Escandor sitting on the bench with three fouls beginning the second quarter, the Blue Knights were left with prolific combo guard Axel Doromal and Ayon Angeles leading their attack.
The Warriors took the third quarter 53-47 and stretched that to eight in the early goings of the final period.
With the Warriors headed for another title conquest, Solitaria pulled his biggest gambit.
The Warriors still led with two minutes remaining 68-67, but Escandor, who hit five of six from beyond the arc in the fourth alone, struck another booming triple to give Ateneo the lead, 70-68.
Doromal paced Ateneo with 24 points while Escandor, who had only two points before that fourth quarter outburst, finished with 17. Angeles added 16 while Dariel Manliguez chipped in 10.
The Warriors were led by Sumugat with 22.
ATENEO (75) - Doromal (24), Escandor (17), Angeles (16), Manliguez (10), Cane (4), Barrientos (2), Weill (2)
ACD (73) - Sumugat (22), Vistal (13), Royo (10), Omaña (9), Salvame (9), Penion (4), Malano (3), Velarde (3)
Quarterscores: 16-16; 35-35; 47-53; 75-73