The elimination round of NCAA Season 92 is finally done and the Final Four is here, with the San Beda Red Lions and the Arellano Chiefs earning the top two positions for the twice-to-beat advantage, and the Mapua Cardinals and UPHSD Altas completing the cast. Thanks to the passionate and gutsy play of all the teams – regardless of their position in the team standings – fans have been treated with thrilling games and amazing performances this season, which they were able to catch live at the venue, on TV on S+A and S+A HD, or via livestreaming at sports.abs-cbn.com.
As we get into the Final Four fever, let us look back at those times in NCAA Season 92 that inspired and excited us and made us love basketball even more.
Here are 12 epic #PusongPalaban moments we have seen so far in NCAA 92:
1) Rey Nambatac explodes for 40
Questions swirled around Intramuros with the departure of seniors Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal, the pillars upon which their Season 91 title romp was built on. People seemed to have forgotten that the Knights had a third head to that dragon and he was named Rey Nambatac. A former high school sensation, he exploded for a NCAA season-high 40 points against San Sebastian earlier in the tournament to show he is ready to be the leader of his team. The last Letran Knight to even reach that mark? Former top gun Kevin Alas.
2) Jio Jalalon and AC Soberano playing hurt to give their teams another W
Sometimes, you just have to suck it up and play on. That was the case for Jio Jalalon, the superstar point guard of Arellano, and AC Soberano, who plays as the offensive sparkplug off the bench for San Beda. Jalalon suffered a bad fall, taking the air out of the San Juan Arena in doing so, but played on, dropping 33 markers against the upset-conscious San Sebastian Stags, who were able to beat three of the Final Four contenders. Soberano on the other hand injured his shooting hand in a must-win game against EAC for the Lions were mired in a slump. That did not deter the NCAA 3-point king from still pushing past the pain and shooting his team to the W.
3) Ayaay’s hustle plays for LPU reminiscent of NBA legend Dennis Rodman
MJ Ayaay of the Lyceum of the Philippines University is not a very tall guy on the floor. He gives about a good four to five inches against collegiate big men. But see, that’s where the Dennis Rodman comparisons start. The NBA legend was never the tallest guy on the floor but he outhustled people taller and heavier than him in the chase for the 50/50 balls. That’s an area where Ayaay excels and who knows, that may just pay off for the Pirates in the future.
4) San Beda showing us: “No Tankoua, No Problem”
Donald Tankoua was San Beda’s force of nature down the middle. Sure he does not rack up as much points as predecessors Ola Adeogun and Sudan Daniels, who were nightmares offensively. Tankoua made a living gobbling up every loose ball defensively and offensively while being the main rim protector of the Red Lions. When he went down with an ACL injury, many thought that the buffer the Red Lions created during the first round would be for naught. But they found another working line up with Arnaud Noah filling in for a small ball attack.
5) Bulanadi’s game-winning shot inspired by his mother
Allyn Bulanadi was going nowhere with 10 seconds left and the Stags down by one against powerhouse San Beda. So he threw up a prayer, hoping that it reached the high heavens where his late mother looked down upon. Bank. Splash. Answered. Bulanadi rammed a dagger straight into the Red Lions’ heart when his heave from just past the halfcourt line went in. The young San Sebastian gunner said that the shot for his late mom. Ah, fate does work in mysterious ways.
6) JRU’s second round streak
Jose Rizal University went off on a rocky start. It put one of the best back court combos in the league, in the persona of Paolo Pontejos and Tey Teodoro, collectively known as the “Blast Bros” in the spotlight, so people expected the team to be a strong contender this season. Thankfully, the potential of the team was realized at the start of the second round of the tournament, when JRU blasted off and strung together wins and almost had a chance to sneak in the Final Four. Still, the future remains bright for the Heavy Bombers.
7) CSB finding a new star in slam dunk king Yankie Haruna and Christian Fajarito
Not much has been going on for the rebuilding College of Saint Benilde Blazers that are missing the services of graduates Paolo Taha, Mark Romero, and Jonathan Grey. However, they can only look to the future ahead with super-athletic Slam Dunk king Yankie Haruna and promising forward Christian Fajarito making major strides in the development of his game.
8) The double overtime game of JRU and UPHSD
It’s the only game that went the distance twice so far. And this was a really barn burner. Who knew that Perpetual would come back after being down 15 points late in the game? Who knew that the Heavy Bombers, behind Tey Teodoro, would force a second overtime after being almost out of it with less than two minutes to go? Definitely not us. It was a good back and forth until Bright Akhuetie said enough is enough and carried the Altas on his shoulders.
9) EAC and SSC-R’s upset wins over JRU, SBC, MIT, and UPHSD
Teams in the lower half of the standings supposedlu have no business standing up to the big boys. They supposedly should just be contented about showing up and playing. But not for Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals and the San Sebastian Golden Stags. They meant business and fought for pride when they pulled out upset wins over Final Four contenders. San Sebastian was especially glorious during its run in beating SBC, MIT, and UPHSD, punctuated by an Allyn Bulanadi Hail Mary bank shot to beat the Red Lions. EAC on the other hand, surprised a stacked JRU squad and giving them complications for a Final Four entry.
10) Mapua beats San Beda for the first time in 3 years
It had been quite some time since Mapua beat San Beda. Head coach Atoy Co must’ve gotten a monkey off his back when they finally broke the San Beda curse that was a roadblock in most of their campaigns. Team captain CJ Isit scored eight points in the overtime to seal the deal for the Cardinals, who completed the cast of the Final Four last week.
11) College of St. Benilde fights for a winning finish
With a young and relatively inexperienced team that had yet to win, the Blazers were not the favorite when they faced the Pirates in their final game in the season. Nevertheless, Coach Gabby Velasco’s squad did not roll over and allowed the big fat zero to stay in their win column. Instead, CSB showed both heart and promise to come from behind in the fourth quarter to finish their campaign on a high note.
12) San Beda and Arellano duel for the top spot
With the regular season tucked under their belts with a twice-to-beat advantage to boot, the Chiefs and the Lions had to tangle in a playoff to dispute the top spot in the standings. When many thought both squads will just play this out and reserve their energy for the Final Four, they reminded us how they both want to finish as the number one team in the eliminations and beat their biggest rivals this season. However, there can only be one team on top, and behind the 4th quarter rampage of Ben Adamos, who replaced the injured Donald Tankoua in the rotation of Jamike Jarin, the Red Lions roared to victory with the diamond-in-the-rough big man leading the charge.
These are just some of the many epic moments already witnessed in the 92nd season of the NCAA that showed the #PusongPalaban of NCAA student-athletes. More are in store as the league enters its Finals stage on Thursday (October 6) on S+A and S+A HD. For more news, features, and live streaming of the games, visit sports.abs-cbn.com.