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Straight from ruling 'Palaro' qualifiers, NU-Nazareth shifts attention to tune-up vs. Batang Gilas

Migs Palanca is among the players to possibly watch out for NU-Nazareth this coming UAAP season. Laguna PIO
By Ivan Saldajeno

STA. CRUZ, Laguna—Somehow used to playing its games in its mother league in the afternoon, NU-Nazareth had to deal with playing early morning basketball in the Cluster 2 Pre-National Qualifying Meet.

The said meet is the qualifying event for team sports for the Palarong Pambansa pitting the squads who ruled the Southern Luzon regional meets.

The Bullpups, though, stomped their class as expected as they, representing the National Capital Region, swept the round-robin secondary boys 5x5 basketball event to book their place in the Palaro proper later this month in Marikina.

NU-Nazareth first dropped the hammer on Bicol's Naga College Foundation, 95-71, on Tuesday before returning from a day off to rip CALABARZON's First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities, 91-69, on Thursday.

Both games took place at 8:30 a.m. tip-offs at the Laguna Sports Complex here.

With the San Beda-Rizal Red Cubs, which usually represent CALABARZON in the Palaro, conspicuously not around this time, the Bullpups are poised to be the heavy favorites to win it all in Marikina even without star point guard Rein Jumamoy, who was elevated to the Bulldogs squad.

However, assistant coach Leo Pujante believes it was teamwork that did the trick for NU-Nazareth and not its relative superiority against its opponents.

"There is nothing special to watch out for us kasi wala naman kaming star player. Pare-parehas lang yan. Ang special lang naman na makikita nyo ay yung team game. They play as a team," said Pujante, who is taking over the job of head coach Kevin De Castro for the meantime during the Bullpups' early preseason play.

However, they are currently unleashing the might of two tall guys who could attract college basketball scouts this early, six-foot-seven Migs Palanca and six-foot-eight Jedrick Solomon, the younger brother of NU women's volleyball team's Alyssa.

Both Palanca and Solomon only got limited minutes for NU-Nazareth during the last UAAP season, but the two incoming Grade 11 students are set to get more significant playing time in next year's league action.

"Sinuwerte siguro kami. Hinulog sila ng langit sa amin," Pujante further said.

Palanca introduced himself to the crowd here by punishing the rim in the fourth quarter with three two-handed dunks that helped the Bullpups pull away from the Junior Bravehearts, who were just down seven, 59-66, after the third quarter.

Now that their mission is accomplished here, though, Pujante and his boys had to quickly leave the arena as they gear up for another game, but it's outside of the PNQM.

"Pinauwi ko na nga ngayon. Bukas, may tune-up yan versus Batang Gilas," Pujante bared.

The closed-door game takes place at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba City, where the national team preparing for the SEABA U16 Championship is holding its training camp.

After the weekend, according to Pujante, the Bullpups' practice continues ahead of the Palaro.

The loss to NU-Nazareth actually knocked FAITH out of contention as the Tanauan City dribblers lost to NCF on Wednesday.

A huge upset by the Junior Bravehearts could have forced a three-way tie at 1-1 with the quotients to determine which teams qualify for the Palaro.

Instead, they gave the Tiger Cubs a free pass to Marikina, marking a rare time since San Beda's high school department was moved to Taytay, Rizal that CALABARZON won't have a secondary boys team in the Palaro.

MIMAROPA did not send in a high school basketball team at all in the PNQM.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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