NU Bulldogs secure at least a playoff for semifinal spot, relegate FEU Tamaraws to second seeds
Gelo Alolino comes up with the big baskets down the stretch to lift NU past FEU and boost the Bulldogs' chances of sealing a spot in the semifinals. Jerome Ascano

GELO Alolino came up with the clutch baskets once again as National University beat Far Eastern University, 70-68, on Saturday in the UAAP Season 78 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Alolino scored 20 points, including a jumper with 33.5 seconds that capped off a five-point swing and gave the Bulldogs a two-point cushion.

NU finished the regular season with a 7-7 card and is in position to take the fourth seed in the Final Four.

La Salle, which has a 6-7 card, needs to win over skidding FEU on Wednesday to force a playoff.

FEU fell to its second straight loss for a 10-3 card, although it had earlier secured the second-seed in the semifinals where they will face third-ranked Ateneo.

An outsider just a few weeks ago, the Bulldogs won for the third straight game to gain headway in the race to the last spot in the Final Four.

“We knew how important this game is. We wanted to do our job, control what we can control and I think we were able to accomplish that,” said NU coach Eric Altamirano.

“I’m so proud of the boys for having an unwavering faith in each other and in the system,” Altamirano added.

Alfred Aroga had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulldogs. But the hero was Alolino, who after a triple by Pao Javelona, eluded an FEU defender to score on a jumper.

FEU had the final possession but Mike Tolomia missed a running shot as time expired.

Tolomia finished with 23 points for the Tamaraws, who lost the No. 1 seeding to University of Santo Tomas (11-3) despite being on top of the standings for most of the season.

UST will claim the top seed even if it ties FEU at the end of the eliminations following the Tigers’ sweep over the Tamaraws in their season series.

The scores:

NU (70)—Alolino 20, Aroga 16, Celda 9, Javillonar 9, Javelona 6, Diputado 4, Alejandro 2, Neypes 2, Salim 2, Morido, Abatayo 0.

FEU (68)—Tolomia 23, Arong 10, Ru. Escoto 9, Pogoy 8, Belo 8, Tamsi 5, Ri. Escoto 2, Iñigo 2, Orizu 1, Eboña 0, S. Holmqvist 0, Trinidad 0.

Quarterscores: 14-17; 32-31; 51-50; 70-68.

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