EMILIO Aguinaldo College turned back Jose Rizal University, 71-65, on Thursday at The Arena in San Juan to end its 88th NCAA men’s basketball season on a bright note and leave the Bombers’ Final Four fate hanging in the balance.
Despite being eliminated from playoff contention, the Generals played with the desire that was missing in the first round as they finished the season with their eighth win in 18 games, their best finish since they entered the league three ago.
The Generals surpassed their six-win total in 2009 all in their final 10 games this season when they went 7-3.
“What a way to finish the season. I’m very proud of my team,” said Generals coach Gerry Esplana, whose wards dedicated the game to graduating seniors Russell Yaya, Rap Sanchez, and Franz Chiong.
Cedric Happi Noube delivered a double-double of 14 points and the same number of boards, while Jan Jamon, Jolas Paguia, and Nikki Monteclaro provided ample offensive support as the Generals derailed the Bombers’ outright entry to the semifinals.
JRU dropped to 10-8, as did the Perpetual Help Altas after a 62-80 loss to San Sebastian late Thursday.
The Bombers and the Altas face off for the last semifinal spot.
JRU last knotted the game at 65 after a Byron Villarias right-wing triple with two minutes and 40 seconds remaining in the game. But EAC got the breaks in the end and buried the insurance free throws to seal the deal.
The Generals trailed 43-52 late in the third quarter, but went on an 11-0 tear to regain the lead entering the fourth.
“Magandang sign ito for next season. It proves kaya pala namin mag-compete.”
JRU forward Jordan de la Paz fired a career-high 18 points, but was scoreless in the crucial payoff period.
Nate Matute, one of the league’s best scorers, was again a non-factor for the Bombers as he finished with two points on 1-of-6 shooting in 22 minutes off the bench.
EAC (71) – Happi Noube 14, Jamon 12, Paguia 12, Monteclaro 10, Morada 9, Tayongtong 8, Sanchez 4, Chiong 1, Munsayac 1, Yaya 0.
JRU (65) – Dela Paz 18, Lopez 11, Villarias 10, Salaveria 8, Carampil 6, Mabulac 4, Mendoza 2, Matute 2, Maconocido 2, Monserat 2, Porter 0, Camasura 0, Diapera 0.
Quarterscores: 21-23; 39-38; 54-52; 69-65.