Despite nursing a flu, Rushmore Catalino scored 23 points to lead the West Negros University Mustangs in a come-from-behind win against the resurging Colegio San Agustin-Bacolod Eagles, 79-72, as the 1st LNA7 Collegiate Basketball Invitational Tournament opened yesterday at the WNU Gym.
In the first game, the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos Rams overpowered the University of St. La Salle Stingers for an 83-76 win, giving the crowd at the gym a preview of what to expect when the 32nd NOPSSCEA men’s basketball opens in the coming weeks.
Coming out strong in the first quarter, the Eagles surprised the NOPSSCEA defending champs with a barrage of points from Jan Daniel Javelosa, Jan Mark Delos Santos, and Alfred Valle, who combined for 18 points as CSA-B took a 22-18 lead.
“We might have lost the game but I am the happiest coach here right now. We outscored WNU in three quarters despite having 10 rookies in our team,” Eagles head coach Lorenzo Solinap said.
“I was not expecting this and although we can not promise anything when the NOPSSCEA season begins, one thing is for sure. The crowd will be seeing a good game from the Eagles every time we play,” he added.
The Mustangs made it a one-point game at 21-22 at the start of the second quarter but the Eagles managed to outscore them at halftime, 38-32.
Catalino, who silently delivered nine points for the Mustangs in the first half, made his presence felt under the boards in the third quarter as WNU finally outscored CSA-B, 19-18, but still trailed at 51-56 going into the final quarter.
Outrebounded and hounded by errors in the fourth quarter, the Eagles finally yielded the lead at 64-63 with 4:22 left in the game as JV Veloso converted two free throws for the Mustangs.
With the diminutive Renz Solomon dazzling the crowd with his hardcourt savvy and timely hits from three-point area, WNU grabbed the lead good to seal their victory.
Meanwhile, it was re-energized UNO-R team that tackled the USLS squad in the first game, as the Rams led as much as 10 points, 23-13, in the first quarter with Cedrick Eslabon leading the pack with 10 points.
Playing more aggressively in the second quarter, the Rams continued to dominate the game as they capitalized on the Stingers’ turnovers for a 45-41 halftime lead.
The Stingers staged a comeback at the start of the third quarter, but the Rams kept their composure and used their big men to grab rebounds and pad the lead to 65-55 end of third.
Back-to-back hits from Eslabon in the fourth quarter and a three-point play from Jommel Paderog iced the game for the Rams.
The tournament continues this afternoon at the WNU Gym with UNO-R clashing against CSA-B in the first game at 3:30 p.m. and the Mustangs against the Stingers in the second game.*NAB
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