MANILA—After five long years on the ground, the Hawks soared again Friday.
Not taking any chances, University of Manila unloaded its full might on STI to sweep their best-of-three championship series and claim the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (Naascu) men’s basketball championship at the Makati Coliseum.
The Hawks relied on their run-and-gun game hinged on big man Eugene Torres and speedy guard Alvin Viernes, plus an untiring defense to win Game 2, 68-55, and nail their sixth league championship.
UM dominated the league from 2001 to 2005 but could not get its act together the next year to challenge for the title. The Hawks drew ominously close to the crown in 2007 and 2008 but wound up the losing finalists in both seasons.
Ironically, it was STI which frustrated the Hawks in 2007.
“We credit the coaching staff and the players for all their hard work,” said UM president Ernesto delos Santos, who watched all the Hawks’ games from the sidelines.
STI appeared to have learned from Game 1’s 78-73 loss and clamped on UM hotshot guard Rhandelle Colina, a 6-foot prized find from Davao who was shackled by a rotation of guards yesterday and failed to score a single basket.
But that only opened things up in the shaded lane, where the 6-foot-4 Torres made serious damage with 30 points.
It was a fitting finale for Torres, who also bagged the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards. UM coach Felix Castillo clinched the Coach of the Year plum.
Viernes, the wily 5-foot Hawks playmaker, fired 17 points with Jay Ar Manuel chipping in 11 points.
Earlier, Informatics captured third place with a 75-69 decision over Centro Escolar University.
In juniors action, Our Lady of Fatima downed CEU, 76-73, to also sweep their own best-of-three title series.
AJ Perea of the Baby Phoenix clinched the MVP plum.
St. Clare beat UM, 68-59, for third place.
UM 68—Torres 30, Viernes 18, Manuel 11, Pateno 7, Tamayo 2, Colina 0, Ancheta 0, Tan 0.
STI 55—Gabo 13, Morales 10, Betaneye 10, Sabellina 8, Ihalas 8, Melano 3, Ablaza 2, Bautista 1, Po 0, Riva 0.
Quarters: 23-13, 45-29, 54-39, 68-55