THE showdown took two matches and an extra period to complete, and in the end National University proved it deserved the win.
Leaning on Bobby Ray Parks’ dagger of a three-pointer, the Bulldogs defeated Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 84-81, in overtime of their re-played game on Sunday to clinch a Final Four berth in the UAAP seniors basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Parks nailed the pull-up three-pointer with 31.4 seconds left in the extra period to break a 79-79 tie and fuel a telling nine-point run that sent the school to its first Final Four appearance in 11 years.
The last time the Bulldogs got this far was in 2001 behind a team led by Jeff Napa, now the coach of NU's juniors squad and an assistant of current seniors head coach Eric Altamirano.
“Because of the standings, this win is very significant for the NU community,” said Altamirano. “This is where we wanted to be from the very start.
“This season, we had a lot of close games. I always tell the guys that those things happen for a reason to make us tougher. We showed a lot of perseverance to come back. Hats off to our boys, they showed our heart, kept coming and true enough, we were able to win this game.”
The loss was a big blow for the Tamaraws as they now face the Green Archers in a playoff for the No. 4 spot in the Final Four set on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The UAAP Board had ordered the game re-played after NU put FEU’s 77-75 win last September 2 under protest, arguing that RR Garcia’s last-gasp lay-up should not have been counted.
The rematch went into overtime, with regulation ending at 73-all following a running jumper by Parks with 39 seconds remaining.
Gryann Mendoza’s potential game-winning jumper for FEU missed its mark.
The Tamaraws kicked off the extra period on a hot note, unloading six straight points on a Terrence Romeo triple and a Chris Tolomia lay-up.
But the Bulldogs answered back ferociously, with Mark De Guzman tying the game at 79 before Parks hit his go-ahead triple.
Garcia sank two free throws with 19.1 seconds, but Parks answered back with charities of his own for an 84-81 lead.
Romeo passed off to Russel Escoto in the Tamaraws’ final offensive play, only for him to miss the game-tying triple at the end.
NU (84) -- Parks 27, Mbe 25, Neypes 7, Alolino 7, Javillonar 6, De Guzman 5, Betayene 5, Singh 2, Villamor 0, Rono 0, Khobuntin 0.
FEU (81) -- Romeo 25, Garcia 13, Tolomia 10, Hargrove 7, Pogoy 6, Mendoza 5, Escoto 5, Belo 4, Foronda 3, M. Bringas 3, Cruz 0.
Quarterscores: 23-20; 37-42; 60-55; 73-73; 84-81.