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St. Clare breezes past DLSU for Milcu Got Skills championship
by rick olivares
The St. Clare College Saints…. who? Yeah, those Saints who play for this small school in Caloocan. In the National Athletic Association of Colleges and Univeristies (NAASCU)? They are screaming for attention and they have this feeling their time is now.
The Saints defeated the favored De La Salle Green Archers — sans their starting unit — in the Milcu Got Skills championship, 103-92, at the Enderun College at McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. The no-name Saints with nine freshmen and three sophomores seized the lead for good in the first period with a strong inside game anchored on forwards Joy De Mesa and Mark Puspus while Paeng Rebugio and Michael De Leon kept defenses honest with their outside shooting.
La Salle in the meantime, disposed of the University of the East Red Warriors in their own semis showdown, 78-72.
The Saints posted a 16-point lead in the third quarter, after Rebugio hit a triple with 7:56 to play, 57-41. But La Salle gave St. Clare a dose of its own medicine with Jason Perkins and Mark Dyke making shots inside the lane while Aljun Melecio launched howitzers of his own to cut the lead to 57-52. With the Green Archers breathing down the Saints’ necks, Rebugio hit a triple right before time expired in the third quarter game clock for a 60-52 lead.
“That shot,” remarked La Salle coach Siot Tanquincen who calls the shots for DLSU’s Team B, “hurt us. In fact, that player (Rebugio) was a fireman for their team.”
Rebugio, who topscored for St. Clare with 22-points including four triples, was so confident that he stopped on a dime with 8:46 left in the game clock during a fastbreak attempt to drill a triple instead of going for a layup, 76-65.
After De Mesa scored on a drop step move for the biggest lead of the match, 90-71, time down to 5:10, it seemed that all was lost for La Salle. But Prince and Ricci Rivero and Melecio conspired for a 9-0 run that had St. Clare on their heels. With 3:10 left to play, the match nearly saw a free-for-all after De Leon slipped and seemed to undercut La Salle’s Andrew Langston who laid the ball in. Ricci Rivero shoved De Leon to the floor earning a technical foul. Some fans even went to the floor to either confront or pacify the players. As cooler heads prevailed, De Leon was assessed a regular foul while Rivero was slapped with a technical foul.
Instead of galvanizing La Salle, they fell apart. After De Leon hit the two free throws for a 92-84 lead, the Green Archers fell silent for the next minute while St. Clare tacked on six more points for an even bigger cushion. The Saints outscored the Green Archers 5-4 in the final two minutes for the final score of 103-92.
De Leon added 20 points while Dionisio and De Mesa chipped in 13 and 10 points respectively. Rebugio, who transferred from Jose Rizal University during Vergel Meneses’ first season as head coach with his alma mater, was named the Finals Most Valuable Player.
Melecio paced La Salle with 19 points while Perkins finished with 16, Ricci Rivero 14, and Langston 11.
The Milcu Got Skills Championship was Manansala’s fifth with the Caloocan school. The Saints also won a smattering of titles from the 2012 NCRAA to the Danny Espiritu Cup to a tournament top trophy finish in Bulacan. Manansala, the former UST Growling Tiger led SCC to its first NAASCU title in 2012 before giving way to Centro Escolar University’s current dynasty.
With CEU taking a sabbatical following its erstwhile head coach Edgar Macaraya decamping for his alma mater, San Sebastian College-Recoletos in the NCAA this Season 92, the coast seems clear for Manansala and the Saints to regain the trophy. The Saints have finished first runner-up to the Scorpions the last three years running.
The Saints finished the tournament with an 8-2 record.