All you need to know from the final week of eliminations of UAAP Juniors Basketball
Here’s how the Stepladder Playoffs will go
1. The Ateneo Blue Eaglets locked up an outright birth in the Finals as a result of them sweeping the Elimination Round.
2. The NU Bullpups have secured a spot as the second seed in the stepladder format, and coming with it is a twice to beat advantage versus whoever will win between FEU and the winner of the Adamson-UST tiebreaker game.
3. The FEU Baby Tamaraws also secured a spot in the stepladder format as the third seed. They will not be getting any twice to beat advantage.
4. The Adamson Baby Falcons and the UST Tiger Cubs will be going through a do or die game to decide who will face the FEU Baby Tamaraws in the step ladder format.
5. The Stepladder format will be as follows:
– A1: UST versus Adamson
– A2: A1 winner versus FEU
– A3: A2 winner versus NU with Twice-to-Beat advantage
– Finals: A3 winner versus Ateneo Blue Eaglets
MVP Candidates shine in crucial Sunday games
CJ Cansino was awarded the MVP earlier today. But all the other candidates made a strong push for the award in the last day of the eliminations.
LJay Gonzales made his case by continuing to showcase his growth as a point guard. Before, he would often resort to reckless drives and careless passes to produce. Now, he’s shown a more steady game, waiting for what the defense will give him while maintaining the flair that made him such a joy to watch last season. In a non-bearing game for them, Gonzales put up 13 points, four rebounds and nine assists to lead the Baby Tamaraws.
CJ Cansino’s always been about carrying his team past seemingly deep holes, and he did just that in a do or die game versus the FEU Baby Tamaraws. Early on, CJ looked passive on offense settling for contested jumpers, but when the fourth quarter came in, that’s when he turned on the jets. Plenty of aggressive drives, mostly off fastbreaks, and he made sure to direct his teammates every time he’d be hounded by the defense off the ball. It was an all-around effort for Cansino, as the King Tiger Cub finished with 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Kai Sotto on the other hand, was his usual steady self. This season, he’ll never be the supremely dominant offensive force we dream of him to be (just this season, relax), but his sheer presence on the defensive end already more than makes up for his woes offensively. Early on versus the NU Bullpups, he couldn’t find his rhythm against their physicality. Eventually though, he found his bearings and made some big time plays down the stretch including a chasedown block on Terrence Fortea with 50 seconds left on the clock. It was a solid performance for Kai, as he put up 10 points, 11 rebounds and had three blocks to boot.
Finally, SJ Belangel. For most of the season, Belangel’s been the steady rock that’s kept the Blue Eaglets seemingly unbeatable. However, the NU Bullpups were determined to end the streak of Ateneo, going at them with the tenacity of a dog that just saw a cat. The Blue Eaglets needed someone to save the day, and who else to go to but their captain right? He went absolutely SUPERNOVA versus NU, scoring 27 of the 38 points of Ateneo during the second half alone. It was the kind of legendary performance that’s sure to go into Ateneo High School Basketball lore.
Big players are expected to show up during big moments. The four biggest stars of the league came out and put on a show, albeit in their own different ways. The best part with all of this? We’ll get to see all of them at least one more time.
The UE Junior Warriors end their season with a bang
UE epitomizes the quote “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. They came into Sunday sporting a 1-12 record, but the way they played for most of the season went beyond that. They pushed most teams to the limit, even leading by the end of halves at times, only to lose it come the second half. It was a blend of the other team flipping the switch and UE simply losing composure. It was easy to feel bad for the gritty Junior Warriors.
Finally, versus the UPIS Junior Maroons, they broke out of their slump and came out with a victory. Before, it was other teams trying to make runs again them. This time around, they did the running as they overtook UPIS after the halftime break to take the victory. It must have felt weird for the Junior Warriors to be the one doing the running AND FINALLY succeeding, but they’ll most definitely take it.
Agem Miranda was his usual all-around self (22 points, 10 rebounds, five assists), but it was Andrei Dulalia who truly stood out in this game. He abused the front line of the Junior Maroons, as the younger brother of Norbert Torres (okay, he really isn’t, but I swear to God they share similar qualities) put up 24 points, 21 rebounds and three blocks to lead UE.