ALFRED Aroga completed a three-point play with 24.5 seconds left as National University edged Letran, 69-67, on Wednesday to advance to the semifinals of the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup at The Arena in San Juan.
Aroga’s basket allowed the Bulldogs to take the lead for good after the Knights appeared on the verge of shocking the Group A top seeds, who had cruised to the quarterfinals unbeaten.
The Bulldogs face the winner of the quarterfinal match between La Salle and San Beda.
“We really needed to play our best in this game,” said NU coach Eric Altamirano. “We were really off both defensively and offensively. I felt that we were a step slow but no excuses. I also thought that Letran played well because they were more relaxed.”
“But I like the poise of the boys in the end. We know we were behind and yet in the most important part of the game, we were able to deliver,” Altamirano added.
The Knights, who actually finished fifth in Group B and got into the quarterfinals only after top seed Ateneo pulled out of the tournament due to injuries to several players, looked set to pull the rug from under the Bulldogs as rookie Rey Nambatac converted a triple that gave them a 67-65 lead with 1:17 left.
But JJ Alejandro found Aroga inside, and the latter completed a three-point play for a one-point Bulldogs lead.
Nambatac could not duplicate his earlier triple, missing from the right wing. Joshua Alolino split his free throws to make it a two-point advantage for NU.
On the last Letran play, Ford Ruaya’s triple was blocked by Bobby Ray Parks.
Parks had 16 points while Alolino finished with 13 points and eight assists. Troy Rosario chipped in with 12 points, while Aroga added nine.
Mark Cruz had 16 points, Nambatac 11 and Raymund Almazan came up with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks for the Knights.
NU (69) – Parks 16, Alolino 13, Rosario 12, Aroga 9, Villamor 8, Rono 5, De Guzman 3, Mbe 2, Javillonar 1, Alejandro 0.
Letran (67) – Cruz 16, Nambatac 11, Almazan 10, Gabawan 8, Castro 8, Ruaya 6, Luib 5, Dysam 3, Buenaflor 0, Publico 0, Po 0, Pantin 0.
Quarterscores: 19-22; 43-37; 56-58; 69-67.