By Jerome Lagunzad
National University and University of Santo Tomas carved out contrasting victories on Tuesday night as the 8th Mayor Kim Lope A. Asis Invitational got going at the packed Lope Asis Memorial Gymnasium in Bayugan City, Agusan Del Sur.
The Bulldogs, supported by Madyaw Construction, got off to a so-so start but displayed the sharp form expected by many in the middle quarters to pull away from the Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan Crusaders, 93-70, and take the early lead in Group A.
Big man Tsaddy Rangel led a balanced attack with 10 points while high-flying Fil-Am recruit Daniel Chatman highlighted his seven-point production with a pair of rim-rattling dunks in the third canto where the Bulldogs put on a show to the delight of the sizeable hometown crowd.
“Our second group, especially the rookies, stepped up to the plate. Their energy gave us a tremendous boost which allowed us to take control in the second half. They also did a great job executing our trapping plays,” said NU acting coach Odick Reyes.
Also emerging triumphant in the opening day of the most prestigious intercollegiate cage event in southern Philippines which is being held as part of the annual celebration for Bayugan’s 11th Charter Day and Bayugan Festival were the Growling Tigers who survived reigning CESAFE champion University of Cebu, 78-71.
Spitfire guard Renzo Subido finished with 17 points while Benin import Soulemane Chabi Yo added 16 points off the bench for the Vincare Pharma-backed Growling Tigers who struggled to put away the gritty Webmasters for majority of the way.
But once fatigue and the physicality took their toll on the Phoenix Fuel Life-supported Cebuanos, the Growing Tigers uncorked eight unanswered points, capped by a Chabi Yo lay-up off a CJ Cansino feed, for a 74-66 cushion with 2:18 remaining.
Cameroon center Frederick Elombi led all scorers with 21 points while former Mapua standout Darrell Menina added nine points that all went for naught with UC’s immediate loss in the four-day cage spectacle.
African big man Red Cachuela tallied 15 points for the Greene Builders-backed Crusaders, who proved a tough nut to crack in the opening period but suddenly crumbled in the face of the Bulldogs’ ferocious attack that started in the second period.