MANILA, Philippines – Rookie point guard Penny Estacio stepped up to the plate for the La Salle Green Archers as they captured their third straight win and improved their Final Four chances with a 63-58 triumph over the NU Bulldogs in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday, November 23.
With La Salle only ahead by 4 points, 32-28, after a tight first half, Estacio shot the lights out in the third frame and unloaded all of his 13 points on a sizzling 3-of-5 clip from beyond the arc to help the Green Archers create an 11-point edge over the Bulldogs at the end of the period.
Estacio outscored the whole Bulldogs squad, 13-9, in that momentous third quarter, that also saw NU’s own rookie point guard Kean Baclaan get ejected at the 8:43 mark for picking up two technical fouls for flopping.
Evan Nelle, who converted on two crucial triples in the final period to keep the Bulldogs at bay, backstopped Estacio with 10 points, while Mike Phillips had a near double-double of 9 points and 11 rebounds for the Green Archers.
Meanwhile, La Salle’s high-scoring guard Schonny Winston, who missed four consecutive games due to a left calf strain, suited up for only four seconds in the opening period – likely to just keep his bid for the MVP award alive as an MVP candidate must play at least 10 games in the elimination round.
Jake Figueroa scored a game-high 19 points, while John Lloyd Clemente tallied a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulldogs.
“It was a pretty hard-earned victory for us,” said La Salle head coach Derrick Pumaren.
“We know NU’s the number two team so we’re just going to keep pounding, keep digging out there,” he added.
With the win, La Salle moved up to solo fourth place with a 6-6 slate, while NU, which is already assured of a playoff spot, saw its four-game winning run halted and dropped to 9-4.
The Green Archers aim to boost further their playoff hopes when they face the UE Red Warriors on Saturday, November 26 at 3 pm, while the Bulldogs hope to end the elimination round with a bang and stay well in the hunt for a twice-to-beat Final Four bonus when they collide with the Adamson Soaring Falcons on the same day at 11 am.
La Salle 63 – Estacio 13, Nelle 10, M. Phillips 9, Nonoy 7, Cortez 7, Quiambao 6, Abadam 4, Austria 2, B. Phillips 2, Nwankwo 2, Macalalag 1, Winston 0.
NU 58 – Figueroa 19, Clemente 15, Manansala 5, John 4, Enriquez 4, Baclaan 4, Palacielo 2, Mahinay 2, Padrones 2, Minerva 1, Malonzo 0, Yu 0, Galinato 0, Tibayan 0, Tulabut 0.
Quarters: 14-14, 32-28, 48-37, 63-58.