by Jonas Terrado
National University-Nazareth School put on a strong finishing kick to dethrone Ateneo, 64-53, and capture the UAAP juniors basketball crown before screaming fans yesterday at The Arena in San Juan.
Carl Tamayo’s basket underneath put NU ahead 52-51 before baskets by Reyland Torres and Terrence Fortea coupled with offensive struggles by the Blue Eaglets enabled the Bullpups to complete a sweep of their best-of-three title series.
The victory was NU’s fourth championship in the last eight years, and the first since 2016.
Coach Goldwyn Monteverde savored his first UAAP title while perhaps feeling a sense of vindication after a stint with Adamson in 2017 ended in controversy when victories were forfeited because of ineligible players.
It was indeed a great triumph for NU as no Bullpup players made it to Mythical Five selection and the MVP plum was won again by Ateneo’s Kai Sotto.
That “snub” turned to be a great motivator as the Bullups persevered despite the ejection of Gerry Abadiano to win the ultimate prize. Abadiano was thrown out for a second unsportsmanlike foul for hitting Sotto late in the third.
“We won the ultimate prize that’s what mattered,” said NU chief backer Eduard Tio of Freego.
Tamayo finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds and was later adjudged as the Finals Most Valuable Player.
He averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds in the series, but was also credited for limiting Ateneo’s prized 7-foot-2 center Kai Sotto in the fourth quarter.
Sotto finished with 26 points and 25 rebounds but he and the rest of the Blue Eaglets sputtered on offense after taking their final lead, 51-50.
Fortea, the only member of NU’s 2016 title squad, scored 15 points despite a 3-of-19 shooting.