Defending champion St.Clare College-Caloocan opened its campaign for an unprecedented third straight title in style, beating Enderun Colleges, 96-72, at the start of the 18th National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities basketball tournament at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
The Saints drew big numbers from rookie Joseph Peñaredondo and Russel Fuentes, who finished with 13 points apiece; and import Mohamed Pare, who added 12 points and a game-high 12 rebounds to frustrate the Titans before a wildly-cheering home opening-day crowd.
The Jino Manansala-mentored Saints broke away from a tight contest with several long scoring splurges capped by a crippling 15-2 run that turned a precarious 52-51 lead into a 67-53 lead going into the payoff period.
The Caloocan-based team, which hardly missed the services of to-time MVP Aris Dionisio, even took its biggest lead of 26 points, 96-70, on a three-pointer by Rojay Santos with 26 seconds left.
Michael Dela Cruz and Valandre Chauca had 15 points apiece for the Titans.
Earlier, New Era University shocked Philippine Christian University 70-64, behind the solid games of Jefferson Comia (24 points) and Adzhar Udjan (12 points, seven rebounds).
Reyl Vasquez paced the Dolphins with 23 points and seven rebounds.
The league formally opened with a colorful opening ceremony highlighted by inspirational remarks by Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go, Bureau of Correction head Gen. Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa and Melvin Contapay of Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa.
NAASCU founding president Dr. Ernesto Jay Adalem of St. Clare College-Caloocan delivered the welcome remarks, while NAASCU president Dr. Martha Beata Ijiran of PCU made the formal declaration of the opening of the league’s 18th season.