By Jerome Lagunzad
Different scenario but same result.
Orlan Wamar and Nigerian center Ebuka Umeanozie came through with clutch plays yesterday as defending champion Centro Escolar University survived Olivarez College, 67-64, to seize the solo lead in the Universities and Colleges Basketball League (UCBL) Season 2 at the Sea Lions’ own floor in Sucat, Parañaque City.
The 5-foot-8 Wamar sizzled from beyond the arc with seven triples and finished with a game-high 26 points while the hefty Umeanozie provided hustle plays down the stretch to help the Scorpions stave off the Sea Lions’ fightback.
Although its latest performance was far from what it showed in a 60-43 beating of Olivarez College last Sept. 7, CEU still had enough tricks to claim its fifth straight victory and 11th overall in 12 matches, moving ahead of idle Colegio de San Lorenzo (10-1).
“Credit goes to the players. They embraced my challenge that they need to step up in order for us to repeat over the Sea Lions,” said Scorpions coach Yong Garcia. “We struggled to make our usual shots but they were great defensively in the second half.”
Down by as many as 10 points in the opening frame, CEU clawed its way back behind the consistent shooting of Wamar then took control after the turn behind its suffocating defense, limiting Olivarez to just 24 points in the pivotal half.
The Scorpions’ vaunted pressure was in full display in the tight finish after the Sea Lions threatened anew at 64-65 off Noy Bermudes’ gutsy drive with 44.3 seconds to play.
Although Judel Fuentes missed a tough shot, Umeanozie grabbed the offensive rebound and, in the process, was fouled by Olivarez counterpart Chris Lalata, sending him to the 15-foot line where he split his charities to make it a two-point lead.
Off a timeout sued by coach Mike Saguiguit, the Sea Lions had a good chance to tie things up but Lalata was visibly bothered by the presence of Umeanozie, causing him to miss what seemed to be an easy eight-footer.
Umeanozie corraled his 12th overall rebound and found himself back at the charity stripe after receiving an unsportsmanlike foul from Olivarez big man Jayboy Solis. Although Umeanozie missed his pair of freebies, Wamar more than made up for it by splitting his own attempts, stretching the Scorpions’ lead to three with 4.8 remaining.
The Sea Lions had a chance to force an extra five-minute period but Richmon Sunga’s three-point attempt that went off the glass rim out just as time expired.
CEU 67 — Wamar 26, Fuentes 7, Cruz 6, Guinitaran 6, Manlangit 5, Baconcon 4, Arim 3, Galinato 3, Demigaya 2, Umeanozie 2, Uri 2, Caballero 1.
Olivarez 64 — Begaso 15, Sunga 11, Bermudes 9, Castro 6, Lalata 6, Uduba 6, Saguiguit 5, Almajeda 2, Solis 2, Elie 1, Navarro 1, Geronimo 0, Rabe 0.
Quarters: 14-24, 37-40, 52-51, 67-64.