Up until the buzzer that signaled the end of the first half, National University was still locked in a dogfight with the gritty La Salle Zobel.
That all changed in a fraction of a second as the Bullpups brought things to a whole new level in the second half and walloped the Junior Archers 96-75 en rout to its third UAAP juniors title in five years yesterday at The Arena in San Juan.
A miracle three pointer at the corner by Winderlich Coyoca with 0.3 ticks of a second left in the second quarter sparked a hellish 28-3 run by the Bullpups to turn a 45-37 lead to a commanding 73-40 lead midway through the third period.
That shot proved to be a confidence booster for Coyoca as he drained two more three pointers in the third period to lead the blistering NU rally which also got key contributions from Karl Penano, Justine Baltazar and John Lloyd Clemente.
From then on, La Salle never stood a chance as the Bullpups showed no let-up en rout to the reclaiming of the title that they lost last to the Ateneo Blue Eaglets last year.
“Nagsend ng strong message ang team at pinakita nila na they deserve to be the champions. All throughout, hindi kami nagmadali, naging pasensyoso kami, bumalik kami kung san kami malakas at kung ano kami,” said NU coach Jeff Napa.
“Siyempre may panghihinayang pero ang importante naman ay ang championship,” he added.
All eyes all series were on the 6’7 Baltazar who was later named the Finals Most Valuable Player.
The 19-year old Pampanga native finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and three blocks further cementing his status as one of the most sought after recruits this year.
Incidentally, his head coach in Napa all but confirmed his impending move to the NCAA champion squad Letran.
“Magpapahinga muna ako kahit ng isang araw, alam niyo na naman e, hindi na ako para magsalita pa, maguusap na kami.
Pero ayoko muna isipin yun, enjoyin ko muna ang championship na to, bago ko mabigyan ng problema sa kabila,” said Napa.
NU 96 – Coyoca 20, Baltazar 18, Penano 16, Clemente 15, Amsali 11, Callejo 6, Atienza 5, Fortea 3, Jugar 2, Manalang 0, Sarip 0, Beldua 0, Tolentino 0, Careng 0, Mosqueda 0
DLSZ 75 – Melecio 22, Sobrevega 20, Sario 14, Paraiso 8, Romero 6, Cabarrus 3, Fortuna 2, Tongco 0, Mariano 0, Salafranca 0
QUARTERS: 22-9; 48-73; 79-52; 96-75