THE National University Lady Bulldogs continue to make history after completing a rare sweep of the UAAP women’s basketball eliminations that moved them within a win of achieving another milestone – a first ever league championship.
The Lady Bulldogs completed the feat on Saturday, but not after surviving a resilient defending champion De La Salle Lady Archers in a 75-71 win.
The Lady Bulldogs had the game under control in the first half, 36-26, before Jonah Melendres, Trisha Piatos, and Camille Claro hit six three-pointers in the second half that highlighted a 31-point surge by the reigning champion to make the game close in the final stretch.
“It was an unbelievable run by the Lady Archers. I was really fuming mad at my players. We nearly lost our composure in the third,” admitted NU coach Patrick Aquino.
Good thing for Aquino, hotshots Gemma Miranda, Andrea Tongco, and Shelly Gupilan did not back down and engaged the La Salle gunners in a virtual shootout.
“We really gave it our best. Sinamahan na naman ng swerte kaso kinapos pa rin. But our spirit is not yet down, we will try harder to retain the crown,” said La Salle mentor Tyrone Bautista shortly after the team suffered its fourth loss.
“Hindi namin nakuha 'yung result na gusto namin pero marami kaming positives na puwede naming dalhin sa Final Four. At least nakita namin na nag-compete kami against NU, which is really the favorite,” he added.
“We wanted to keep the game close, and we did. I think we need to bring our A-game against them… you can pull off a game or two, and with how we performed yesterday… I think we can,” added the former De La Salle star.
The win shoved the Lady Bulldogs to the Finals for the second straight year, although this time they are armed with a thrice-to-beat advantage following their perfect 14-0 record in the eliminations.
The Sampaloc-based school now awaits the outcome of the stepladder playoffs as UST and FEU tangle in a do-or-die encounter for the right to face La Salle, which has a twice-to-beat advantage in the semis for finishing second behind NU.
Since the Ever Bilena Cosmetics company of businessman/sportsman Dioceldo Sy took over the control of the Lady Bulldogs three years ago, the team has been on a steady rise.
NU made the Finals for the first time last year, but lost the title series against La Salle, 2-1.
“The foundation of the discipline of NU has been built,” said team patriarch and SM Group of Companies big boss Herbert Sy.
“We create foundation first before going for the other (facets). It’s hardware first before software, same philosophy of how SM does business,” he added.
Sy meanwhile refused to take sole credit for the uphill swing of NU in almost all events in the UAAP.
“It’s a total team effort,” he said while keeping his fingers crossed that this year NU can finally win a coveted title in basketball for the first time.
“I am wishing for that… every day is not Christmas naman eh,” said Sy while hoping the women’s team’s dominance will rub off on its men’s counterparts.