The José Rizal University (JRU) Heavy Bombers upset the 3-time defending champions, Colegio de San Juan de Letran (CSJL) Knights, in the opening game of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Season 99 at the Mall Of Asia Arena last Sunday, September 24, 2023.
Early Struggles and Catching Up: 1st and 2nd Quarters
During the 1st quarter of the game, the Heavy Bombers were just getting started to heat up as they struggled to catch up with the Letran Knights for the first 10 minutes of the game, ending the quarter with a score of 19-26 with the Knights in the lead. As for the 2nd quarter of the game, it was more of a catch-up game for the Heavy Bombers as they needed to catch up to a deficit as high as 11 points in the middle of the quarter. During the last few moments of the quarter, they tried to tie the game with both teams having 40 points, but they ended up falling short, ending the quarter 39-40.
The Turning Point: Bombers’ Resilience in the 3rd Quarter
After the halftime break, it was now time for the second half of the game, starting off with the 3rd quarter. Coming out fresh from the huddle and Coach Louie Gonzales’ pep talk, the Heavy Bombers started to get their groove during the third quarter. The Heavy Bombers welcomed the 3rd quarter with two steals against the defending champions. Although the Knights were still at an advantage, the Heavy Bombers started working their way to try and take the lead. As the key players, Agem Miranda and JL Delos Santos, started to get in the zone, they led the Heavy Bombers to chop down the lead. With Patrick Ramos’ last-minute dime, the lead was now down to 2 points. Ending the quarter with a score of 54-56.
Overtime Thriller and a Sweet Victory for the Heavy Bombers
It was then the 4th and final quarter. The cheers and screams of the fans were echoing all throughout the Arena, all showing support to their respective schools. It was a Knights show in the first half of the quarter, especially with Rookie Deo Cuajao’s back-to-back triples. However, during the second half of the quarter, the Bombers created a 10-to-nothing run sparked by Joshua Guiab’s “all but easy to shoot” dime and the Rookie Shawn Argente’s back-to-back shots from beyond the arc. With only 1:08 remaining in the 4th, a three-point advantage was produced by the Bombers courtesy of Marvin Dionisio’s baseline shot. However, Deo Cuajao tied the game with only 3.9 seconds remaining. The Bombers were to inbound the ball, and with the time remaining, there were two shooting attempts that were denied by the Knights, leading the game into overtime, 73-73.
A Triumph in Overtime: Heavy Bombers’ Victory Sealed
The overtime started off with a triple by Marvin Dionisio. 3:40 remaining, Letran clenched a 1-point lead due to the production of Kurt Reyson from the free throw line, shooting two for two. But after Team Captain Ry De La Rosa and Agem Miranda’s teamwork play, the lead was back to the Bombers. With less than a minute left, there was only a 1-point difference between the scores, but Joshua Guiab made sure to put the Bombers in a more comfortable lead with a crucial dime, starting the spark of a 6-to-nothing run. Agem Miranda also made sure to put this win in the bag with his production from the free throw line, finishing the game with a 6-point lead against the Knights. The final score was 85-79, with the Bombers clenching on their first win of the season.
The duel between the JRU Heavy Bombers and CSJL Knights was outstanding for both teams, putting the audience at the edges of their seats. Despite the loss, it was still a commendable performance given by the Knights, especially with the great performance from their rookies like Deo Cuajao and Nicko Fajardo. But we cannot discredit other key players like Paolo Javillonar, Kurt Reyson, and Kevin Santos, who also put their all into this game. Undoubtedly, all the players put their effort and heart into this game, even if this was only the first page of this new chapter in the NCAA.
Rookie Shawn Argente was hailed as Player of the Game with 12 points, 4 out of 5 three-point field goals, along with two assists in his debut game in the NCAA.
The Heavy Bombers will next take on the College of Saint Benilde Blazers this September 29 at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan.