On track of its 14th straight title, the West Negros University Mustangs need to get past the University of St. La Salle Stingers in the semifinals starting tomorrow in the 32nd NOPSSCEA men’s basketball at the WNU Gym in Bacolod City.
Armed with a twice-to-beat advantage, the Mustangs topped the four-team cast after the eliminations with a 5-1 win-loss card, capped by an 82-75 win last night against the Colegio San Agustin-Bacolod Eagles.
Winless after six games, the Stingers still hope for a reversal of fortune in the semis after engaging the Mustangs in a close game in their last encounter.
The other semifinals match-up will be between University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos and CSA-B Eagles, with the Rams also enjoying a twice-to-beat advantage.
As the only squad to beat the Mustangs in the eliminations, the Rams secured the No. 2 spot with a 4-2 card after a come-from-behind victory against the Stingers last night, 78-73.
Down by seven points, 29-36, at the start of the second half, UNO-R cut the lead to a single point at 43-44 on Ritcher Santillan’s reverse layup with 3:38 left in the third quarter.
The Rams finally grabbed the lead at 45-44, as Coleen Testa completed a steal from the backcourt after the Stingers failed to score in transition.
A triple from Jasper Villacampa put the Stingers on top, once again, at 47-45, but Joemel Paderog scored the equalizer for the first deadlock of the game at 47-all with 1:33 left in the third quarter.
Scott Salvacion broke the tie with a jumper and Bernales split his free throws as the Stingers grabbed the lead at 50-47 going into the payoff period.
In control of the game in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, USLS led as much as nine points, 64-55, on back-to-back baskets and a triple from Arturo Cuaresma until Cedrick Eslabon, Santillan, and Fred Jay Parreño engineered a rally that brought the Rams one point behind the Stingers, 70-69, with 2:06 left in the game.
A fastbreak play from Eslabon to Santillan put the Rams ahead, 71-70, with 1:58 left, while Rendell Bernales’ effort to get back lead for the Stingers with an attempt from the three-point area failed to go in.
The Rams, on the other hand, completed the come-from-behind win with a triple from Parreño, and four free throws from Eslabon, Paderog and Parreño to deal the Stingers their sixth loss in the eliminations.
Eslabon led UNO-R scorers with 16 points, while Santillan and Paderog had 13 points each.
Bernales topscored for the Stingers with 19 points, Cuaresma finished with 12, Villafranca and Villacampa has 11 points apiece.
Meanwhile, Mustangs dominated the match-up against the Eagles as Rashmor Catatalino and Jeramer Cabanag took charge of their offense with 17 and 16 points respectively.
Alfred Valle, who was missing in Eagles’ last game against the Rams, scored 27 points despite getting into foul trouble early in the game.
Marfel Gaitan, who scored 11 points before he was ejected from the game with 2:57 left in the third quarter, had 11 points, while Marvin Cervantes had 10 for the Eagles’ losing cause.*NAB
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