The National University Bulldogs defeated the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 75-59, in Game 3 of the best-of-3 finals to capture the UAAP Season 77 championship Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
With everything on the line, the NU Bulldogs started slowly in the first quarter until they finally found their groove in the next three quarters.
Cameroonian center Alfred Aroga, the Finals MVP, scored 24 points and he intimidated the penetrators of FEU throughout the game. Aroga averaged 16 points and 13 rebounds in the UAAP finals and he was responsible in making this team strong in offense and stingy in defense.
After dropping Game 1, the Bulldogs climbed back in the last two games to grabbed their first title since 1954. Gelo Alolino added 12 points while Glenn Khobuntin and J-jay Alejandro added 10 apiece.
“It was really a long journey for us,” NU coach Eric Altamirano said. “But all those adversities we had to go through, they made us stronger.”
NU reached the top after five perilous do-or-die games, including this one. The Bulldogs needed a playoff game against UE to advance to the Final Four. They also outlasted Ateneo twice to get into the Finals. Then, they dropped their first game and their backs were against the wall in the last two games.
“Every knockout game that we played made us stronger and helped us gain more confidence,” Altamirano said.
The Tamaraws had a blazing 11-5 start through Mike Tolomia’s three-pointer. However, the defense of the Bulldogs started to be felt in the latter part of the quarter.
Tolomia finished with 23 points and Mac Belo added 17 points and 13 rebounds in a losing effort.
“It was really tough,” said FEU coach Nash Racela. “Any angle you look at it, we were overpowered by Aroga. We did not have a person to match up against him.”
NU 75—Aroga 24, Alolino 12, Alejandro 10, Khobuntin 10, Neypes 8, Rosario 6, Diputado 5, Betayene 0, Javelona 0, Perez 0, Salim 0.
FEU 59—Tolomia 23, Belo 17, Dennison 6, Cruz 4, Jose 4, Iñigo 3, Hargrove 2, Tamsi 0, Ru. Escoto 0, Pogoy 0, Ugsang 0, Ri. Escoto 0.
Quarters: 20-18, 30-26, 55-44, 75-59