MANILA, Philippines – The University of the East Red Warriors, despite playing without primary point guard Roi Sumang, finally had a decent fourth quarter run to help them close out against a dangerous National University Bulldogs, 64-55, and keep their bid for a Final Four slot alive in the men’s basketball tournament of UAAP Season 77 on Sunday, August 31 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
UE moved to a 6-5 slate above UST and just a game behind NU who has a 7-4 win-loss card. The win proved very crucial for their Final Four aspirations as the Warriors will be going up against tough teams in FEU and La Salle, consecutively.
“We want to stay alive and this game is very important to us,” UE coach Derrick Pumaren said.
“It’s like we’re living day by day. We know that we cannot afford for NU to get their 8th win tonight so we were fighting for our lives and we stayed alive.”
Sumang was benched - a disciplinary action - for missing the team’s 9 PM practice on Saturday night, saying he had a headache. Pumaren said he received a text from the playmaker at exactly 11:16 PM, minutes before the team’s practice ended.
But the Warriors held their own without him.
“The beauty of basketball is that it’s a team sport, it’s not one guy, it’s not two guys, it’s everybody,” Pumaren said. “It takes the whole team to win the ballgame. I think that’s what we showed tonight, that UE is not just a one-man team. It is a basketball team. There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’.”
Even without their leader, the Warriors stood tall and were not deterred by the Bulldogs’ 9-0 rally early in the fourth, which cut a 39-29 deficit to just 39-38 on a split from big man Alfred Aroga.
But Charles Mammie, who dropped a season-high 22 points along with 10 rebounds, stopped the bleeding for UE before he and Paul Varilla conspired for 4 straight points later on to bring the lead back up to 45-40.
“The guys really played their hearts out. Charles really carried us on his shoulders tonight. He was making big shots, even hitting 15- or 16-foot (jumpers),” Pumaren said.
“I think Charles is a different Charles Mammie. He just has to play UE basketball. And that’s what he’s been doing. I must say Charles is a different person now in and out of the court. The way he plays is different.”
Gino Jumao-as (8 points) then went on a solo 5-2 spurt, drilling a trey and getting a fastbreak layup to go to make it a 50-42 ballgame midway in the fourth.
Even as Gelo Alolino took two of those points back from the stripe, RR De Leon finally hit his lone field goal of the game, a momentum-squashing 3-pointer, that stretched UE’s lead to 53-44 with 3:03 to play.
Mammie, who went 10-of-21 from the field and was the only Warrior in double figures, then gave UE its biggest lead of the contest, 57-46, with 1:10 remaining and effectively kept the game out of NU’s reach.
It was a rare successful fourth quarter for UE who always fell through in the endgame during their losses, seemingly unable to hold on despite leading by a huge margin.
“The boys really played well, they buckled down under pressure, we really played good defense. We had a week to work on against NU and I must say we really played defense true to the way we wanted,” Pumaren said of his team who also forced NU to 26 turnovers and milked 12 points off of it.
Varilla stepped up for Pumaren and contributed 8 points and 10 rebounds, while Chris Javier and Bong Galanza added 8 and 5 points, respectively.
For NU, Gelo Alolino led the way with 13 points and 7 assists. Troy Rosario had 12 points and 9 rebounds as Nico Javelona went two-of-3 from long range and collected 9 markers.
UE (64): Mammie 22, Jumao-as 8, Javier 8, Varilla 8, Gallanza 5, Alberto 4, De Leon 3, Charcos 2, Guiang 2, Olayon 2, Arafat 0, Palma 0.
NU (55): Alolino 13, Rosario 12, Javelona 9, Khobuntin 6, Betayene 5, Aroga 3, Diputado 2, Alejandro 0, Celda 0, Perez 0.
Quarter scores: 8-11, 19-15, 37-29, 64-55.