Playing at the enemy’s homecourt did not stop the UNO-R Rams from completing a two-game sweep of the best-of-three finals as they beat the USLS Stingers, 75-68, at the St. La Salle Coliseum last Friday night to bag the NOPSSCEA Season 35 men’s basketball title.
It was the second for the Recoletos team four years after Roland “Girom” Aledron took over the reins as head coach of the Rams. “This is second in four years and I am giving credit to the players for showing great teamwork,” Aledron said. “After winning Game 1, I told our players that we need to win in Game 2 and end the series. No more Game 3,” he added. While the Rams journey to the championship this year was far from perfect and there were games in the early rounds that left them frustrated, the back-to-back win against the Stingers in this year’s finals showed the dominating side of the team. Last Friday night’s Game 2 saw the Stingers up by a point in the first quarter, 20-19, with Harvey Eslawa scoring 6 points, the Rams bounced back in the second canto and outscored their host, 21-17, to take the lead at halftime, 40-37. And like in Game 1, when the Rams upped the tempo of their play in the second half, the Stingers’ offense once again took a back seat in Game 2 as they repeatedly failed from salvaging second chance points. A flicker of hope momentarily ignited the Stingers’ camp as Dave Chuatico hit a triple in the 8th minute mark of the fourth quarter to put the Stingers 2 points behind at 51-53, but the Rams were unshaken as Kim Damaranan completed a three-point play to give his team a 5-point lead. Chuatico hit another jumper to make it 53-58 and USLS had the momentum after UNO-R failed to score in transition but a bad pass delivered the ball into Coleen Testa’s for another quick two points for the Rams. From then on, Ritcher Santillan took over as he made his presence felt and completed another three-point play to give the Rams a 10-point lead at 63-53 with 4:46 left in the game. Running out of time, the Stingers tried to redeem themselves with attempts from the three-point area with Eslawa and Jasper Villacampa hitting their mark. But the Rams were determined to end the series in Game 2 as they calmly converted free throws in the final minutes of the game. Santillan topscored for the Rams with 18 points while Stefano Ayuco, who exploded with 9 points in the second quarter, tallied 16 and Dimaranan added 12 points. Villacampa led the Stingers with 16 points and Eslawa finished with 11. (Nida Buenafe, Visayan Daily Star, November 28 issue)