Amid the atmosphere engulfing the arena at the pinnacle of National University (NU), Steve Nash Enriquez whispered a prayer.
“Both teams prepared very well so it’s up to God for us to win,” Enriquez said in Filipino.
The Cebuano midfielder also had a hand in this result.
Enriquez finished with 16 points, including 12 in the first half, and displayed expert gems for the Bulldogs, who also drew clutch performances from Jhon Lloyd Clemente and Omar John in the tense win. 80-76 against La Salle’s Blue Archers during the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday.
National U have now won four straight games to rise to the top of the standings and have not lost since Enriquez’s return to action after missing the team’s first three games with a hamstring injury.
“Our mentality is to be the hungrier team. And we Bulldogs were hungrier so we won,” said Enriquez.
And with NU sticking to the UAAP lead, it tried to respond to coach Jeff Napa’s urgings for the Bulldogs to prove they should be in the discussion about the title favorite.
“There is nothing wrong if we dream about joining the big boys, but we won’t be able to achieve it if we don’t work hard. Napa said.
He had a chance to put his team on top at the end of the first round as the Bulldogs ended that period against a winless Far Eastern U (FEU) on Sunday.
“We’re not so talented compared to other teams, but we have big hearts and give our best, whatever it takes,” Napa said.
But that best will have to get better as the tournament goes into depth.
Enriquez, who missed NU’s lone loss – to Ateneo – said: “I feel there are things we still need to improve on.
But Napa never lost faith in the quicksand guardian.
“He was raised well,” Napa said. “He feared God and didn’t care about privilege or anything. He just wanted to prove himself. He is a born leader. “
Enriquez hit John with the feed leading to a dunk that gave NU a 77-69 lead 3:01, enough for the Bulldogs to beat the Archers to their third defeat in six games.
“I challenged them to find out their identity against UP (University of the Philippines) and told them we had to be firm against Adamson before saying we needed 2,000% effort to beat La Salle, ‘ said Napa.
Kevin Quiambao picked up 15 points for La Salle but missed two crucial attempts from the way out that could have changed the outcome. Michael Phillips also has 15 for the Green Archer.
NU is now shifting its focus to cleaning up its enforcement, towards Sunday’s showdown with the FEU.
“Even though we won, we had to correct our mistakes [after committing 28 turnovers] and solve what we need to solve. We don’t have to be satisfied and ready on Sunday,” Napa said.
Ateneo regained his lost position in the remaining game after cutting Adamson’s wing early on the road to a clear 76-55 win.
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