WORKING behind a big second half performance, defending champion Centro Escolar University turned back Lyceum-Batangas, 86-68, and earned a piece of the lead in the Universities and Colleges Basketball League (UCBL) on Thursday at the Olivarez College gym in Sucat, Parañaque City.
Ric Fuentes pumped in 18 of his game-high 23 points in the final canto while Congolese big man Rod Ebondo produced a near double-double performance to help the Scorpions dominate the upset-conscious Pirates after the break.
The victory came on the heels of a dominant 60-43 win over Olivarez College last week and enabled CEU to join pace-setters Diliman College and Colegio de San Lorenzo on top of the eight-team field.
But his wards’ latest performance left much to be desired for Scorpions’ coach Yong Garcia.
“We’re too complacent early on. It’s been our main problem. Good thing, the guys made the right adjustments in the second half,” he said.
The 6-foot-6 Ebondo made his presence felt in the third canto where he banged in 11 of his 13 points before Fuentes stole the spotlight with his sudden explosion in the fourth, including back-to-back triples that stretched CEU’s lead to 78-63 with less than three minutes to play.
Guard Bryan Buen also sizzled with 23 points while Leo Fernandez added 14 markers but the Pirates still dropped their second straight match in as many starts.
In the second game, forward Karl Mallari hit timely baskets in the stretch as Technological Institute of the Philippines averted a late collapse against gritty Bulacan State University, 90-84, for its first victory.
Veterans Jorey Napoles and Kevin Lara combined for 44 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists but it was the 6-foot-2 Mallari who delivered crucial baskets in the final canto that enabled the Engineers to survive the late-charging Gold Gears side.
“We broke down anew in the latter part. But the guys stuck to the game plan and heed our call,” said TIP assistant Mark Lopez who primarily called the shots in the absence of head coach Potit De Vera who was under the weather.
CEU 86 — Fuentes 23, Cruz 15, Arim 13, Ebondo 13, Galinato 5, Uri, 4, Manlangit 4, Cabblero 4, Wamar Jr. 3, Umeanozie 2, Demigaya 0, Baconcon 0, Intic 0.
Lyceum-Batangas 68 — Buen 23, Fernandez 14, Saliente 9, Villaluna 7, Axalan 6, Lapasaran 5, Solitario 2, Villanueva 2, Eranes 0, Olarte 0, Valencia 0.
Quarters: 21-18, 31-31, 55-48, 86-68.
TIP 90 — Napoles 24, Lara 20, Mallari 15, Latu 9, Daguro 8, Soriano 6, Palisoc 4, Ramos 4, Manalang 0, Primo 0, Quiambao 0, Tan 0.
BulSU 84 — Fajardo 21, M. Mendoza 20, Dela Cruz 16, Crisostomo 7, J. Mendoza 6, Necio 6, Cristobal 4, Jauco 4, Enrile 0, Ledesma Jr. 0, Sellano 0, Solayao 0.
Quarters: 30-16, 49-35, 75-53, 90-84.