A shorthanded Emilio Aguinaldo College side started strong and finished even better as it stunned powerhouse San Sebastian, 77-67, on Saturday in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Without three key personnel, including head coach Gerry Esplana, the cellar-dwelling Generals drew significant contribution from role players and pounced on Calvin Abueva’s foul trouble to pull off the upset victory.
It was the Generals’ first win against San Sebastian since the school joined the league in 2009.
The Generals, who won for only the third time in 10 games this season, lost by only one point, 93-94, in their first round meeting with the Stags.
“Yun talaga naging basehan namin that we can compete against them,” said assistant coach Andy de Guzman, ably filling in for Esplana who was suspended along with diminutive guards Francis Munsayac and Jorem Morada, for their participation in the near-brawl in their game against College of St. Benilde two weeks ago.
Russell Yaya and Igee King stepped up while Cameroonian stalwart Cedric Happi Noube came through with his usual double-double performance as the trio spearheaded the Generals in dealing the Stags only their third loss in 10 games.
Yaya, the team’s elder statesman, came up with 18 points and six boards, while Happi Noube registered 17 points and 10 boards.
King, who has been inconsistent in the first round, finally broke out of his slump to tally 17 points—on 7-of-10 shooting, and five rebounds.
“Siya talaga missing link namin,” De Guzman said of the son of former pro Abe King. “Hopefully he continues playing this way.”
The Generals caught fire early as they established a huge 26-11 lead at the end of the first canto, before the Stags mounted a comeback in the next two quarters to come to within one, 57-58, entering the fourth.
The Stags, however, failed to sustain their push in the payoff period as the do-it-all Abueva fouled out with still six minutes and 56 seconds to play and EAC built another double-digit lead, a King triple making it 71-61with 4:43 to go.
Ian Sangalang shone brightest for the Stags with 24 points and 17 boards, while Abueva wound up with only nine points, eight boards, five assists, and six turnovers.
EAC 77 – Yaya 18, Happi Noube 17, King 17, Tayongtong 11, Monteclaro 5, Jamon 3, Chiong 3, Paguia 3, Sanchez 0, Acebron 0, Mallari 0.
SAN SEBASTIAN 67 – Sangalang 24, Dela Cruz 14, Pascual 10, Abueva 9, Maiquez 4, Antipuesto 2, Miranda 2, Juico 2, Binuya 0, Rebollos 0, Balucanag 0.
Quarterscores: 26-11; 43-38; 58-57; 77-67.