A hot-starting Jose Rizal University avoided a massive collapse behind its trademark defense and torrid shooting as it emerged an 83-72 winner against Mapua to jumpstart its campaign in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan on Monday.
Philip Paniamogan and Paolo Pontejos were on target for the Bombers as they conspired to preserve the victory after seeing their early 20-point lead vanish.
It was Pontejos, the San Beda transferee, who helped the Bombers erect a 41-21 lead in the second quarter as he scored 12 first half points built on two three-pointers.
Then Paniamogan took over later on, nailing four treys in the pivotal fourth as the Bombers held sway after the Cardinals clawed their way back in the third quarter.
“We committed turnovers, pero ang mabuti ang composure namin nandun,” Bombers coach Vergel Meneses said. “It’s a good sign. Pero it’s still early in the season.”
“I will count on these two guys pag dating ng crunch time. Sila ang hahanapin ko talaga,” Meneses added, referring to Paniamogan and Pontejos. “Lahat naman sila may license sa akin. Ayaw ko lang ng forced shot.”
“Basta tulungan lang kami dahil puro maliit ang sentro namin. Talagang box out lang tsaka hustle sa depensa,” Paniamogan said as the Bombers were outrebounded by the Cardinals.
“Since na pumasok ako ng JRU, defense na talaga ang weapon namin. It’s not our offense,” Meneses said. “I know we can shoot, but we cannot outscore the other team.”
The loss spoiled the coaching debut of cage legend Atoy Co for Mapua, which skipped major preseason tournaments in the summer.
Paniamogan, who gained experience playing for JRU-Air21 in the D-League, finished with a game-high 24 points on seven triples, while Pontejos added 18 markers.
Ighalo led Mapua with 22 points, 11 boards, two assists, one steal, and a block in a losing effort.
JRU (83) – Paniamogan 24, Pontejos 18, Dela Paz, 10, Mabulac 10, Abanto 8, Balagtas 4, Sanchez 4, Juanico 3, Lasquety 2, Salaveria 0, Grospe 0.
MIT (72) – Ighalo 22, Eriobu 11, Braña 11, Saitanan 10, Estrella 9, Cantos 5, Isit 2, Magsigay 2, Gabo 0.
Quarterscores: 26-14; 43-33; 60-62; 83-72.