I was betting on the Mapua Red Robins that they will make it to the finals of the 91st National Collegiate Athletic Association junior basketball tournament,
But, all bets were off in the last five minutes and 26 seconds of the fourth quarter in their second stepladder semifinal encounter with the Braves.
(Point guard Mike Enriquez, who should be MVP) looking for an open man to pass the ball).
Michael Enriquez, one of the sparkplugs of the team(and possibly the junior MVP this season), was down on the floor, writhing in agony. A sight that’s unforgettable to me that day. He came up with an MVP performance that afternoon with the way he was leading the team and directing plays on the floor.
He was suffering from cramps in the right leg after playing for 32 minutes.
(MIke Enriquez is down on the floor, grimacing from cramps on his right leg. Teammates attend to him).
When the medics took him away from the floor, I knew and felt that this is the turning point of the game.
Enriquez is one of the candidates(and I’m betting on him to MVP) for MVP with Salenga with his averages of 15.22 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.22 assists and 3 steals per game.
(Marlo Espiritu after the Arellano Braves beat the Mapua Red Robins).
Before he left the court, the Braves were up, 69-66, off Ira Bataller’s drive past Enriquez.
I was counting on Mike. I believed in him. I was rooting for him. He was one of the few lucky ones who had a meet-and-greet, and a clinic with NBA star Stephen Curry when he came to the Philippines two months ago.
(Guilmer de la Torre goes for layup).
His absence in the last five minutes of the game gave the Arellano University Braves an opportunity to take their first ever finals seat in the junior division of the 91st National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament.
Without Mike, there was not enough good players who could keep up with point guard Guilmer de la Torre and his back Marlon Espiritu as they sprinted they way across the floor in the remaining time.
(Romuel Junsay(left) in a rebound battle with Carlo Abadeza).
Without him, the Braves were able to pull off an upset of the second seed Mapua Red Robins, 85-79, in the second stepladder semis playoff last Tuesday, Oct. 20, at the Mall of Asia Arena
In the closing minutes, it was the 5’7 Espiritu who came up with the biggest baskets of his life.
(Sherwin Concepcion going for a triple).
He came up with big plays right after Lars Sunga put the Braves slightly ahead with his split charity, 77-76, in the last 2:21.
The 16 year old Espiritu made only seven points in that game.
(Lars Sunga makes an attempt past Romuel Junsay).
But he struck with crucial triple and two charities in the last two minutes, and the Braves to move comfortably ahead because of this.
“Sabi ni coach, magtiwala po ako sa sarili ko.Masaya po ako sa tirang yun, Big shot po sa akin iyun,” said Espiritu.
(Coach Tylon Darjuan whoops it up).
This allowed the Braves to nurse a four-point lead as they entered the final minute of action, 80-76.
The Red Robins were able to threaten anew, 79-90, off a three-point from Romuel Junsay,
(Roy Velasco (right) looks for an open man).
But after Jasper Salenga missed an attempt which would have allowed Mapua to move away, Espiritu lured Salenga into a foul, and knocked in two freebies with 20.4 ticks to go, 82-79.
The Red Robins, lost their chance to come closer when big man Sherwin Concepcion bungled on a three-point attempt.
(Frank Yco (right) in a possession battle with Lars Sunga).
After Sunga completed a three-point play which finalized the count in the final 2.6 seconds, Mapua coach Randy Alcantara was already at the Arellano bench, shaking hands with Braves coach Tylon Darjuan and conceding the match.
“Heto, kahit paano nandito kami sa finals. Blessing ito,” said Braves coach Tylon Darjuan as Arellano gets ready to tackle early finalist San Beda.
Last Oct. 16, it was Abadeza and de la Torre who came up crucial plays at endgame and lifted the Arellano University Braves to a 75-74 triumph over the La Salle Greenhills Junior Blazers in the first semifinal playoffs.
In that game, de la Torre led with 20 points, and he put the Braves ahead with his two winning charities in the last 41.7 seconds.
(Jasper Salenga in a one-on-one play with Carlo Abadeza).
On Friday, the Braves will make history with their first ever championship stint against the San Beda Red Cubs.
The Red Cubs made it to the finals first via an 18-game sweep of the eliminations.Espiritu
(The Arellano Braves celebrate).
Arellano 85- Sunga 23, de la Torre 23, Abadeza 9, Velasco 8, Bataller 8, Espiritu 7, Tamayo 4, Fornis 2, Dularte 1, Calapine 0.
Mapua 79- Concepcion 20, Enriquez 20, Salenga 14, Junsay 13, Yco 6, Bonifacio 4, Garcia 2, Badillo 0, Velvez 0, Samonteza 0, Uson 0.
Quarterscores:19-20, 39-44, 59-65, 85-79.