Forward Rich Guinitaran shone on the offensive end as defending champion Centro Escolar University repeated over also-ran Bulacan State University on Saturday 83-66 to seize the solo lead in Universities and Colleges Basketball League (UCBL) Season 2 at the Olivarez College gym in Sucat, Parañaque City.
Guinitaran sizzled with a game-high 21 points, spiked by five triples, as the Scorpions jumped the gun on the slow-starting Gold Gears and never looked back, leading to their sixth straight win and 12th overall against a lone loss.
“We know what Rich is capable of. His teammates did a better job finding him and making sure he’s wide open for those threes,” said CEU coach Yong Garcia, who also got six rebounds and four assists from Guinitaran.
African import David Adebola had a double-double of 10 points and 13 rebounds while three other teammates, including reigning league MVP Dominck Fajardo, tallied at least 11 points each but BulSU failed to dug itself out of an early hole, causing it to drop to a 3-9 slate.
Earlier, University of Batangas made a strong assault in the second half to get back at Lyceum-Batangas 85-77 and close out its campaign on a high note.
Cameroonian Raoul Yemeli powered his way to game-highs of 28 points and 14 rebounds while Lowell Castro nearly had a double-double of 15 points and nine rebounds to help the Brahmans avenge an 88-84 loss to the Pirates last Sept. 25.
More importantly, UB stopped a seven-game bleeding and bowed out with a 2-12 card, still at the tail-end of the eight-team field. Lyceum-Batangas, meanwhile, suffered its 10th loss against three victories.
“We really wanted to out with a flourish,” said UB coach Judd Cauntay, who took over the coaching reins from Arnold Contorno prior to the to the start of the second round.
“Actually I’m still trying to familiarize myself with their individual talents. I haven’t been in charge for a long time and we’re still in kinda getting-to-know-you stage. I’m just happy that we were able to pull this off.”
Leo Fernandez had a team-high 19 points, spiked by four triples, while do-it-all guard Rommel Saliente flirted with a triple-double with nine points, as many rebounds and eight assists to lead the way for the Pirates, who even enjoyed a 45-41 lead at the break.
The Brahmans, however, countered back in the third canto, with Yemeli piling up 10 points and Castro and Gotam combining for nine points to give them a 68-56 advantage into the final frame.
UB seemed headed to a cruise when Yemeli made two freebies for an 11-point buffer, but Lyceum-Batangas refused to go down without a fight and pulled within 76-80 going to the final two minutes.
A split by Saliente pulled the Pirates within 77-82 inside the final minute but John Caspe countered back with a crucial lay-up, giving the momentum back to the Brahmans with 35 ticks to play.
UB 85 — Yemeli 28, Castro 15, Gotam 11, Caspe 9, Vilegas 8, Gabriel 6, Tabol 6, Alade 2, Cervantes 0, Heidelburg 0.
Lyceum-Batangas 77 — Fernandez 19, Axaln 17, Buen 14, Lapasaran 12, Saliente 9, Villaluna 6, Eranes 0.
Quarters: 23-16, 41-45, 66-58, 85-77.
CEU 83 — Guinitaran 21, Cruz, 13, Wamar 9, Galinato 9, Manlangit 8, Arim 6, Fuentes 5, Umeanozie 5, Intic 5, Baconcon 2, Caballero 0, Demigaya 0.
BulSU 66 — Necio 15, Fajardo 12, Dela Cruz 11, Adebola 10, Crisostomo 8, Ledesma 5, M. Mendoza 3, Enrile 2, Solayao 0, J. Mendoza 0, Cristobal 0.
Quarters: 28-15, 46-29, 59, 37, 83-66.
(Olivarez College gym)
12 noon — Lyceum-Batangas vs TIP
2 p.m. — CdSL vs BulSU