JOSE Rizal University didn’t have to endure a close battle for a change.
Finally finding the killer’s instinct, the Heavy Bombers waltzed past Mapua, 87-78, on Monday at The Arena in San Juan to sustain their sizzling run in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Philip Paniamogan bombarded the Cardinals in the second half, where he pumped in 26 points after going scoreless in the first two quarters as the Bombers turned the game around and never looked back to notch their fourth straight victory and sixth overall against only three losses.
“He was explosive in the second half,” Bombers coach Vergel Meneses said of Paniamogan, who knocked down five triples. “That’s what helped us get the lead for good.”
The Bombers thus ended their first-round campaign maintaining their unlikely position in third spot, while dealing the cellar-dwelling Cardinals their eighth loss in nine games.
For a while, though, the Bombers, whose last three wins were decided by just two points or less, appeared headed for another tight encounter as the Cardinals held their own. The cellar-dwelling squad even took the lead at halftime in a match that saw 13 lead changes and five deadlocks.
But behind their trademark full-court press, the Bombers gained the upper hand midway through the third quarter, where Paniamogan scattered 12 points.
The fourth-year shooting guard turned it up a notch in the payoff period, firing 14 markers, including three straight trays early on that gave the Bombers a 77-66 lead and took the fight out of the Cardinals.
“We started on defense then our shots started to fall,” said Meneses, who gained significant offensive contribution from defensive stopper Nonoy Benavides, who fired a career-high 17 points.
The loss put to naught the all-around effort of CJ Isit, who came to within a rebound from recording a triple-double with 21 points and 10 assists.
JRU 87, Paniamogan 26, Benavides 17, Teodoro 12, Asuncion 11, Abdul Wahab 7, Mabulac 5, Grospe 4, Sanchez 3, Balagtas 2, Salaveria 0
MIT 78 – Isit 21, Eriobu 16, Biteng 12, Saitanan 8, Cantos 8, Serrano 5, Layug 4, Gabo 2, Estrella 2, Canaynay 0, Tubiano 0
Quarterscores: 16-19, 38-41, 68-63, 87-78