MANILA -- Ateneo de Manila University point guard Ian Espinosa hit a floater in the lane with five seconds left to lift the Blue Eaglets to a pulsating 67-66 win over defending NCAA juniors champion Mapua University in the Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup.
The Blue Eaglets led for much of the game until Mapua made a run in the mid-third period where they took a nine-point lead, 56-47 after ONeil Castor hit a free throw with 40 seconds left.
Ateneo went on an 8-2 run that bridged the third and fourth frames to come within a bucket, 58-56, after a Miggy Salvador tip-in.
With 1:19 left in the game, Ateneo forward-center Jynno Ladimo hit two free throws to give the Blue Eaglets – who were without the injured Forthsky Padrigao for the second straight game – a 65-64 lead.
A turnover by Ateneo forward Joshua Lazaro saw Mapua retake the lead off a 10-foot pull up jumper by Lenard Parial with 41 ticks left.
When Ateneo got the ball back, Espinosa’s errant entry pass to Lazaro was tapped away by Mapua forward Tony Fransman. As Red Robins guard Ivan Lazarte brought down the ball, he lost control and tried to drop it to Parial. But Ateneo rookie Francis Lopez picked off the ball and Ateneo went back on the offensive.
After a broken play, Lopez was able to retrieve the loose ball and he passed it to Espinosa who saw an opening on the left side. The second year-point guard drove in and lofted a floater over Mapua’s Jonnel Policarpio for a game-winner, 67-66, with 5.5 seconds left.
In Mapua’s final offensive, Fransman missed an undergoal stab with Lopez on him as time ran out.
Jynno Ladimo led Ateneo with 12 points while Miggy Salvador and Francis Lopez each added 10 as the Blue Eaglets evened their Filoil slate to 2-2.
Jonnel Policarpio top scored with 15 points while Ivan Lazarte added 14 for Mapua that fell to 1-3.
Ateneo’s 47 rebounds saw the collect 15 second chance points to Mapua’s 10. The Blue Eaglets also had a crucial advantage in turnover points, 14-10, with the final two coming via Espinosa’s game-winner.
Blue Eaglets head coach Reggie Varilla was pleased that his wards stepped up for the win. “We’re aren’t a finished work, but I had to ask everyone on the team to step it up and give their best. That is why we play in this league – to learn.”
Varilla was also pleased by the efforts by Ladimo, who has stepped up his game, as well the new additions the Salvador brothers, Miggy and Gabby, who are homegrown players, and Lopez (from La Salle Greenhills) and Lazaro (from San Beda University) who scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds in only 10 minutes of play.
“I told Francis to not mind the pressure as he is only in Grade 9. He can only get better.”
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