By Ricky Manliguis
SAN JUAN—Far Eastern U-Diliman continued its mastery over Nazareth School of National University as it hacked out a nail-biting 66-65 win and take Game 1 of the UAAP LXXIX juniors basketball finals at the FilOil-Flying V Centre Tuesday, Feb. 21.
The boys from Diliman built a comfortbale lead at halftime but had to survive a late charge from the defending champions in the final moments to issue the victory, the second against NU this season.
NU battled back in the fourth quarter, trimming the deficit to just three, 63-66. After a wild wind-up on the next three possesions, Winderlich Coyoca and Rhayyan Amsali sealed the Bullpups’ downfall with three missed charities.
Big man Kenji Roman came alive in the second half, scoring six of his 12 points in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. He also had eight rebounds.
Xyrus Torres, who connived with LJ Gonzales in a telling 22-9 opening-quarter assault, finished with 10 points. Gonzales flirted with a triple-double, producing 10 assists, 10 rebounds, and seven markers.
John Lloyd Clemente carried the scoring load for NU, fashioning a game-high 25 points on 9-of-22 shooting from the field. Coyoca and Amsali accounted for 11 and 10 points, respectively.
FEU will gun for its first title since 2013 in Game 2 scheduled Friday also at the Arena. A sudden-death Game 3, if necessary, will be on Monday next week.
FEU-Diliman 66—Roman 12, Torres 10, Sapinit 9, Celzo 8, Abarrientos 8, Gonzales 7, Gabane 5, Jabel 2, Bieren 2, Baclay 2, Gloria 1, Mariano 0.
NU 65—Clemente 25, Coyoca 11, Amsali 10, Peñano 9, Sarip 5, Manalang 3, Malonzo 2, Tolentino 0, Peralta 0, Fortea 0, Callejo 0, Atienza 0.
Quarter scores: 24-20, 43-34, 57-52, 66-65.