Unbeaten NU Bullpups back in UAAP finals after 14-game sweep of elims
Daniel Atienza went for a drop-pass to a waiting teammate Karl Penano during the UAAP juniors basketball game between National University and De La Salle-Zobel on Saturday. Jerome Ascano

NATIONAL University romped past De La Salle-Zobel, 80-57, on Saturday to sweep the elimination round of the UAAP Season 78 juniors basketball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Arena.

Justine Baltazar had another dominating performance of 18 points and 18 rebounds for the Bullpups, who finished the regular season with a perfect 14-0 record.

By going undefeated in the elimination, the Bullpups clinched an outright berth in the finals armed with a thrice-to-beat advantage against the team which will emerge from the stepladder playoffs beginning on Wednesday at the same playing venue.

Daniel Atienza and John Lloyd Clemente pumped in 15 points each for the Bullpups, who pulled away after outscoring the Junior Archers in the second quarter, 26-13. The game was tied at 16 at the end of the first period.

“Alam namin na they (La Salle-Zobel) will start strong. Kinuha lang namin ‘yung right timing namin. Naging pasensyoso sila. Hindi sila nagpakita ng frustration dahil alam nila na kaya nila basta as a group sila maglalaro,” said NU coach Jeff Napa.

“Masaya ako sa mga bata. At least, ‘yung pinaghirapan namin throughout the year, konti na lang makukuha na namin,” he added.

Aljun Melecio finished with 18 points for the Junior Archers (11-3), who finished second at the end of the elims. They have a twice-to-beat advantage against the winner of the knockout game between defending champion Ateneo and Far Eastern University-Diliman.

Meanwhile, University of the Philippines Integrated School beat University of the East, 99-79, to finish the tournament on a winning note.

Javier Gomez de Liano had 37 points and 11 rebounds in the victory by the Junior Maroons, who won their third game in 14 outings and kept the Junior Warriors winless for the season.

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