ATENEO de Iloilo Under-18 Boys Basketball team outlasted heavily favored Hercor College of Roxas City, 78-77, in double overtime in their championship match held at the Passi City gymnasium last July 24.
Franz Ray Diaz led the Blue Dragons to victory by scoring a game high 33 points to give Ateneo its first championship in an under-18 invitational tournament.
An overwhelming start by Hercor saw Ateneo trail 0-10 and 2-17 early in the first quarter. After an early timeout by Head coach Jophil Cercado, Ateneo recovered to cut the lead to ten (9-19) at the end of the quarter.
In the second quarter the Blue Dragons continued their onslaught thru balance scoring and tight defense to tie the game at 43 by halftime. The third period saw both teams traded baskets as the quarter ended with Hercor leading by a solitary point. The Hercor Jaguars felt it was time to turn the tide in their favour as they doubled their effort on defense at the start of the fourth quarter to erect a comfortable lead.
Trailing by ten points late in the fourth quarter, the Blue Dragons unleashed a 10-3 run to narrow the gap at 68-71. After missed free throws from the Jaguars on the ensuing play, the Blue Dragons went to Lawrence Ruiz for the final shot. And he didn’t disappoint as he hit the tying three at the corner to send the game into overtime.
The first overtime period was intense and pressure packed as fatigue and player disqualification on fouls sets in. Both teams only managed to score two points and the score tied at 73.
As the championship game entered to a second overtime, many felt that the Ateneo was done for the night. More than half of the team was either in foul trouble or suffering from fatigue and cramps.
But this is the time that separates the winners from the losers.
Diaz capped a brilliant all around performance by scoring all of the team’s five points in the second overtime including the go ahead basket with 36 seconds remaining on the clock.
With much pressure on their side, the Jaguars failed to convert on their next two possessions allowing the Blue dragons to preserved victory after a very hard fought game. Diaz was later awarded with MVP Honours for his game long and tournament long brilliance.
Meanwhile, in the 12-under Category Championship game, the Ateneo “little” Blue Dragons lost to a tall and talented team in St. Roberts International Academy 55-61 on that same day.
After leading by two points, 55-53, courtesy of two consecutive three point baskets by John Michael Vicencio, Ateneo failed to score a single point in the last one and a half minutes of the game. SRIA then scored the last eight to run away with the championship.
Blue draglet Ian Dominic Espinosa did his very best to carry the team back from an eleven point deficit thrice, midway in the second quarter, towards the end of the third quarter and in the last four minutes of the final canto. His effort all went for naught though as the team failed to maintain momentum and came up short in the end. (Jose Anselmo Tenorio/Magis)