Escandor sparks Ateneo comeback as Blue Knights bag SM-NBTC title

Great players come up big when the game is on the line.

With a crushing defeat looking at him in the eye, Ateneo de Davao University coach Miggy Solitaria looked out at the end of his bench then pulled out a huge gamble in the fourth quarter and his team down by 8 points.

Solitaria called out his go-to-guy who was lingering on the bench with four fouls, tapped his shoulder and whispered, “give it what you got.”

With that, Ateneo forward Francis Gabriel Escandor jumped onto the floor like a man possessed.

The next five minutes saw the six-foot-two Escandor strung up five straight pressure-packed three-point shots and just like that, the Blue Knights wiped out that lead and took the SM-NBTC Davao title 75-73 over defending champion Assumption College of Davao on Sunday at the ADDU Jacinto Gym.

“I know it’s a big risk but I needed a last card to overcome that lead,” said Solitaria after the Blue Knights took its first ever NBTC local title while denying three-time champion Assumption College of Davao a rare four-peat.

“He (Escandor) just played awesome in the clutch and the rest of the guys also played with their hearts out. I’m so proud of my boys,” Solitaria added.

The two teams battled to a tight first half which ended in a 35-all deadlock.

With Escandor sitting on the bench with three fouls beginning the second quarter, the Blue Knights were left with prolific combo guard Axel Doromal and Ayon Angeles on the scoring end.

The Warriors took the third quarter 53-47 and stretched that to eight in the early going of the final period.

With the Warriors headed for another title conquest, Solitaria pulled his biggest gambit.

The Warriors still led with two minutes remaining 68-67, but Escandor, who hit five of six from beyond the arc in the fourth alone, struck another booming triple to give Ateneo the lead 70-68.

Doromal paced Ateneo with 24 points while Escandor, who had only two points before that fourth quarter outburst, finished with 17. Angeles added 16 while Dariel Manliguez chipped in 10.

The Warriors were led by Sumugat with 22.

The Blue Knights will represent Davao City in the National Championships on March 11-16 to be played at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

The scores:
ATENEO (75): Doromal (24), Escandor (17), Angeles (16), Manliguez (10), Cane (4), Barrientos (2), Weill (2)

ACD (73): Sumugat (22), Vistal (13), Royo (10), Omaña (9), Salvame (9), Penion (4), Malano (3), Velarde (3)

Quarter Scores:
16-16; 35-35; 47-53; 75-73