NATIONAL University defeated NCAA champion La Salle Greenhills, 80-78, on Friday night to crown itself the NBTC Division 1 national champion at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Gerry Abadiano presided over the NU offense with 24 points to win the Most Outstanding Player of the Finals award as the Bullpups secured their second NBTC crown.
The fifth-seeded Bullpups went up by as many as 13 points and survived a late comeback by the Greenies to atone for a defeat to Ateneo in the UAAP Season 80 juniors finals.
Abadiano is eligible to play for the Bulllpups in the next UAAP season together with Carl Tamayo, who is part of the Gilas Pilipinas pool for the 2023 Fiba Basketball World Cup.
“Very challenging talaga ‘yung liga - 32 teams, nag-end up ka as number one. Masaya talaga para sa amin,” said NU coach Goldwin Monteverde.
LSGH's Joel Cagulangan had 25 points and earned the nod as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. He led a fightback by the Greenies that tied the game at 77-all with 49.5 seconds left.
But Abadiano sank two crucial free throws with 29.9 seconds left to play to give the Bullpups back the lead. Cagulangan split his two free throws, and was blocked by an NU defender in the next possession.
Cyril Gonzales had 12 points while Terrence Fortea had 11 points, four rebounds, four assists, and two steals for the Bullpups, who beat Bacolod Tay Tung High School, Adamson, FilAm Sports USA, and Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu prior in the run-up to the finals.
Inand Fornilos added 18 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks while Joshua Marcos had 17 points and nine rebounds for LSGH.
NU 80 - Abadiano 24, Gonzales 12, Fortea 11, Amsali 8, Quiambao 8, Coyoca 5, Tamayo 4, Minerva 4, Oczon 2, Malonzo 2, Manalang 0, Javillonar 0.
LSGH 78 - Cagulangan 25, Fornilos 18, Marcos 17, Sangco 7, Mosqueda 6, Espinosa 3, Lao 2, Lapalam 0, Natividad 0, Cruz 0, Morales 0.
Quarterscores: 23-23; 40-35; 63-54; 80-78.