By Ivan Saldajeno
PASAY—Assumption Montessori survived a down-the-wire finish and beat St. Jude, 72-71, in the championship game of Division 2 of the NBTC National Finals at the Mall of Asia Arena on Thursday.
The Jaguars almost blew a solid defensive effort early on but held on as the Knights had rough endgame sequence.
Assumption limited St. Jude to only eight points in the first quarter, but the latter recovered with a 25-point second quarter push as the lead was trimmed to three, 36-33, at halftime.
The Jaguars stifled the Knights again in the third, limiting them to only 10 points and taking a 51-43 lead at the half-hour mark.
St. Jude went berserk anew in the fourth, especially the last six minutes, eventually cutting the lead down to one, 68-67, with 1:12 left.
The team even had a chance to take the lead as the team forced an Assumption turnover with 50.1 seconds left, but Rey De Quiros missed a triple and Milo Janao took the ball off Victor Buraga's hands, leading to a crucial basket by Romel Calahat with 25.2 seconds left for a 72-69 count.
The Jaguars had a chance to seal the win as they forced a five-second violation on the Knights, but Calahat, following a quick foul, missed two free throws and De Quiros made two of his own to cut the lead down to one with 17.1 seconds left.
The Knights gambled on going for pressure defense instead of fouling a Jaguar to stop the clock, and it paid dividends as the Jaguars made a bad pass with 9.9 seconds remaining.
However, the Knights missed two close shots as time expired.
Calahat finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds, one assist, and one steal, while Janao, who was named the MVP of Division 2, added 19 points, two rebounds, and three steals for Assumption.
Buraga led St. Jude with 17 points, seven rebounds, and one steal.
Kelly Gurtiza and Bryan Limpangog, who joined Janao in the Mythical Five, were silent in the final with the former only making nine points and the latter contributing only two markers.
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