ROOKIE Master Mendoza delivered a debut performance to remember yesterday as Bulacan State University defeated University of Batangas, 89-86, on Thursday to set its Universities and Colleges Basketball League Season 2 title bid in motion at the Olivarez College gym in Parañaque City.
With their rivals’ defense mainly focused on reigning league MVP Dominck Fajardo, the 5-foot-10 Mendoza took charge in the fourth with seven of his game-high 22 points that enabled the Gold Gears to recover their bearings and hold off the gritty Brahman side.
“It’s far from impressive but we will take it,” said BulSU coach Antonino Tayao, heaving a big sigh of relief after seeing the Gold Gears squander a 10-point lead.
“My players visibly felt the pressure since this is the opening day. Most of them are rookies and are still making the adjustments. That’s why I am not that surprised how tough it is pulling off this win.”
The lefty Mendoza hardly showed any kind of opening day jitters as he played brilliantly on both ends underscored by six steals on top of four rebounds and three assists in more than 37 minutes of play.
Mendoza was at his best in the final period when he provided the spark in a decisive 8-1 run that allowed BulSU to break free from a 73-all count and regain full control going to the final three minutes.
Don Tabol and Jerrick Caspe nailed back-to-back triples as UB pulled within two points only to see Mendoza score three straight points and Jan Jauco bank in a hook.
“I told my players that Dominck cannot do it all by his lonesome. They have to step up and find a way to help our MVP,” added Tayao, who still got a solid 20-point, seven-rebound performance from the 6-foot-1 Fajardo.
Going down the drain with UB’s painful loss was Cameroon big man Raoul Yemeli’s monster performance of 20 points, 17 rebounds and three assists.
BulSU 89 — Mendoza 22, Fajardo 20, Dela Cruz 13, Cristobal 12, Necio 8, Jauco 5, Crisostomo 4, Sellano 2, Solayao 2, Ledesma Jr. 1, Mendoza 0.
UB 86 — Yemeli 20, Caspe 13, Castro 11, Gotam 11, Alade 7, Espiritu 7, Tabol 7, Arcilla 4, Heidelburg 4, Gabriel 2.
Quarterscores: 24-19; 45-40; 67-60; 89-86.