UAAP: Ria Nabalan, Angelo Kouame make history

MANILA, Philippines – The seventh weekend of the UAAP Season 81 seniors basketball tournament saw multiple record-setting performances from the league's finest student-athletes.

But two cagers from the two defending champion squads shone the brightest as Ria Nabalan of the National University Lady Bulldogs and Angelo Kouame of the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles put up individual performances that will forever be part of the history books.

With this, the hardworking men and women covering the beat from both print and online have decided to award the Chooks-to-Go Collegiate Sports Press Corps UAAP Player of the Week citation to both Nabalan and Kouame – the first time the body has given the weekly honor to two players.

For her part, Nabalan, also the first-ever women's cager to win the award, dropped a whopping 40 points on a 14-of-23 shooting to lead the reigning, four-time champions to their 72nd straight win – just a win away from tying the UAAP Seniors record for longest winning streak. (READ: UAAP: Nabalan shines as NU Lady Bulldogs sweep 1st round)

Even her head coach Patrick Aquino was delighted to be a witness to that moment.

"Sobrang happy that everything was falling for (Nabalan). It’s only a once-in-a-lifetime na makakuha siya ng 40 points. Sobrang saya,” he beamed after NU's 111-64 win over the DLSU Lady Archers last Saturday.

(I'm so happy that everything was falling for Nabalan. It's only once in a lifetime that she'll get 40 points. I'm really happy.) 

How rare was it?

Only two other players have ever reached the 40-point mark in the women's division of the league.

FEU Lady Tamaraw Raiza Palmera was the first to achieve the feat back in 2011, scoring 44 points in an 85-80 win over the UE Lady Warriors. A year later, fellow Lady Tamaraw Allana Lim did the same, dropping 45 points in another rout of UE, 85-43.

Later in the day, Kouame made history of his own.

The absences of Thirdy Ravena and Nieto twins Mike and Matt were hardly felt by the defending men's champions in their game against the FEU Tamaraws as the 6-foot-10 Ivorian student-athlete finished with a 30-20 game to lead Ateneo to a dominant 82-62 victory.

Kouame had an imposing 33-point, 27-rebound double-double that was the first of its kind since 2008.  Former Blue Eagle Rabeh Al-Hussaini last reached the feat back in July 31, 2008, registering 33 points and 20 rebounds in Ateneo's 66-72 loss to FEU.

Moreover, Kouame's rebounding total was the most the league has seen in 15 years while his points scored was the most for a Blue Eagle in four years. (READ: Isaac Go: Kouame pushes Ateneo to be better)

But even with this kind of outing, Ateneo's staff believes that Kouame is only scratching the surface of his potential.

"We’re very happy with his development and we’d like to think of it that he’ll still continue to improve," shared Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga. "That’s the mentality of coach Tab [Baldwin] – whatever his talents are, he (Baldwin) will continue to improve it and he will continue teaching."

The co-Players of the Week bested UP Fighting Maroons sophomore Juan Gomez de Liano who himself became the first player in the UAAP's Men's division to notch a triple-double in 12 years.

NU boys stay perfect

National University (NU) completed a back-to-back weekend set to remain as the lone undefeated boys team in the UAAP Season 81 high school volleyball tournament at the Blue Eagle Gym.

The Bullpups topped University of the Philippines Integrated School (UPIS), 25-18, 25-12, 25-15, Saturday and turned back De La Salle-Zobel, 25-20, 22-25, 25-21, 25-12, the following day to extend their perfect run to five games.

Far Eastern University-Diliman took solo second at 4-1 after besting Adamson University, 25-23, 25-21, 22-25, 25-21, and UPIS, 25-12, 25-12, 25-17.

The Baby Falcons rebounded from last Saturday's loss to the Baby Tamaraws with a 18-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-22 stunner over defending champion University of Santo Tomas. 

University of the East forced a three-way tie with Adamson University and UST for third spot at 3-2 by also winning two matches over the weekend, prevailing over De La Salle-Zobel, 25-18, 25-22, 25-21, and Ateneo, 25-15, 25-21, 25-21.  

NU girls top UST for perfect record

Reigning girls titlist NU overcame an opening set loss to subdue University of Santo Tomas (UST), 20-25, 25-17, 25-15, 25-23 and became the remaining undefeated team in a rematch of last year's Finals Sunday,  in the UAAP Season 81 high school volleyball tournament at the Blue Eagle Gym.

Faith Nisperos scored all of her 19 points from attacks while Alyssa Solomon had 5 service aces to finish with 13 hits to go with 7 digs for the Bullpups, who raised their record at 4-0.

Janna Torres paced the Junior Tigresses with 8 points while Imee Hernandez and Regina Jurado chipped in 7 markers apiece.

UST fell in second place at 3-1 alongside De La Salle-Zobel, a 25-15, 25-12, 25-14 winner over UPlS. 

Gabrielle Webb had 9 points while Cassandra Carballo scored all of her 7 points from the service zone for the Junior Lady Spikers.

Sheila Mae Kiseo came through with 11 points and 10 digs as Far Eastern University-Diliman topped University of the East, 25-16, 25-15, 26-24 to move in a tie with idle Adamson University at 2-2 for the 4th spot.  –