National University has lost a game for the first time in seven seasons. And it came at the hands of the school that last beat them.
The Lady Archers of De La Salle University showed tremendous grit and will in handing the Lady Bulldogs their first loss in 109 games, taking a thrilling 61-57 win in the UAAP Season 85 Women’s Basketball Tournament, Wednesday at the Quadricentennial Pavillion in Espana, Manila.
This is NU’s first loss since losing the La Salle in Game 3 of the Season 76 Finals, 69-61, on October 5, 2013.
The eight-woman Lady Archers played the perfect game in the historic win.
“Finally, binigyan na rin nila ako ng magandang regalo,” quipped seven-year Lady Archers head coach Cholo Villanueva, who took over from Tyrone Bautista in 2015.
“You need the perfect players, the perfect rotation to beat a perfect team. Of course, this wasn’t just eight players, they are 16 players—even 18 players in practices—that’s why these eight players did their job. Because these 18-strong players were doing their jobs in preparation for this game. So, it was a team effort,” he continued.
Meanwhile, University of the Philippines needed a huge second half to fend off skidding University of Santo Tomas, 78-60 , in the men’s battle over at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday.
The Fighting Maroons improved to 11-2 to secure at least a playoff for a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four.
The La Salle Lady Archers almost had the game in the bag in regulation, leading 49-46 with 10.5 seconds left after a split on the stripe by Lee Sario.
NU was able to force overtime after a broken play led to a flick from deep by super senior Mikka Cacho.
But in overtime, La Salle was not to be denied.
Sario drained a trey followed by two free throws from spunky guard Charmine Torres that gave La Salle a 57-52 edge with 1:23 left.
Camille Clarin responded with a booming triple but Betina Binaohan got two back on the other end.
An ill-advised trey by Annick Edimo Tiky led to two free throws for Sario that put La Salle up 61-55 with 43.4 seconds remaining.
Though Edimo Tiky was able to make it up with 23.2 seconds left by cleaning up a Cacho miss, La Salle showed that it wanted it more, getting the 50-50 balls to seal the win.
“My girls just wanted it more. I give them the credits today. They were the ones making the right decisions on defense. They were the ones making the right decisions on offense. They just don’t want to let go of that ball in their hands every time in every possession. Every time they shoot their shot, they shoot it with confidence. So, credit goes to my girls for playing one heck of a game,” said Villanueva.
Besides ending the streak, La Salle rose to 11-2 in the standings—holding on to its full game lead over University of Santo Tomas for no. 2. NU remains at the top of the standings with a 12-1 mark and will have to go through the Final Four for the first time since 2014.
Niantcho Tchuido notched a double-double for La Salle with 14 points and 19 rebounds while Torres tallied 13 points, six rebounds, five assists, and two steals.
Sario and Biohan got 10 markers each as well.
“Credit to Coach Cholo, they really wanted the win. We had the snatch to win in overtime but we were not able to take advantage of it,” said NU head coach Aris Dimaunahan.
“It’s just sad today that… streaks are really bound to be broken and today it happened. The real challenge is how we can bounce back after this loss, how we can turn the tide after being beaten. Yun ang titignan namin tomorrow,” he continued.
Cacho led NU with 12 points and 15 rebounds while Angel Surada chipped in 11 poitns and nine rebounds.
La Salle was able to limit rookie Tin Cayabyab (seven points on 3-of-12 shooting), Camille Clarin (seven points on 2-of-11 shooting), and Ann Pingol (six points on 3-of-8 shooting).