Defending champion Saint Clare College-Caloocan is one win away from an unprecedented third straight NAASCU title.
St. Clare flaunted its might from start to finish to bring down first-time finalist Enderun Colleges, 81-67, and move to within a win of capturing the title at the Pasig Sports Center.
The "Fearsome Foursome" of Junjie Hallare, Joshua Fontanilla, Irven Palencia and Mohamed Pare provided the spark for the Saints as they combined for 65 points despite the Titans' best effort on the defensive end.
"Thank God for another victory. Congratulations to our players, who did a real good job," said St. Clare coach Jiniño Manansala, who is also gunning fourth NAASCU title in seven years.
"Isang panalo na lang para sa kampeonato," added Manansala, son of former PBA Rookie of the Year Jimmy Manansala.
He is currently tied for second place with Egay Macaraya of Centro Escolar University for most titles won in the league with three apiece.
St. Clare can wrap up its third straight title when the two teams clash again in Game 2 of the scheduled best-of-three series on Friday at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
Game 3, if necessary, is scheduled on Monday.
Hallare finished with 24 points on 12-of-22 shooting and added six rebounds, Fontanilla contributed 17 points and eight rebounds, and Pare had monster numbers of 11 points, 22 rebounds and five blocks.
Defense also proved to be an asset of the Saints, who put the clamps on Enderun gunner Valandre Chauca, who was limited to only 19 points by the taller Ray Rubio and Joseph Penaredondo. Chauca made 15 triples in Enderun's two-game sweep over last year's finalist De Ocampo Memorial during their semifinal encounter.
Joaqui Mariano was the only other player with double figures for Enderun with 10 markers.
Led by Pare, the Saints also crashed the boards to gain 57-40 advantage in rebounds against the Titans.
It was a double celebration for St. Clare, which also defeated defending champion Our Lady Fatima University, 89-51, to take the opener in the junior division,
Stephen Catacutan led the way for the Baby Saints with 19 points, 11 rebounds and two assists.
John Evert Dayrit added 17 points and four rebounds and Nathaniel Lopez also contributed with 15 points and six rebounds.
Nikko Polo Panganiban finished with 10 points and six rebounds and Vince Nico Alejandro had eight points and four rebounds for the Baby Phoenix