Elite Force IF Game
By: Jan Aquino
The Elite claimed a 46-43 victory, but they have not yet won the title. Under the double-elimination format, another game will be played at 5 p.m. tomorrow at the Phoenix Center.
From jump ball to final buzzer, both teams had their eyes on the championship.
"The Lord blessed us and gave us strength to win," said Elite team member and spokeswoman Jill Acda. "It's a good game every time we play the Nationals, but I guess today we wanted it more," she added.
Elite's leading scorer, Iona Evangelista, scored back-to-back baskets to open the game. Evangelista would finish the game with a solid 15 points while Brianna Benito scored 14 points for the Nationals.
After finishing the first quarter tied 16-all, both teams came into the second quarter with a lot of intensity. As the game got more and more physical, Elite found themselves in foul trouble before the half ended.
The Nationals pulled away with a jumper from Lili Baranda, followed by a free throw to end the first half a 29-26 lead.
The third quarter was a completely different story for both teams. After several turnovers on both sides, Elite's Charity San Agustin finally banked in a short jumper with 7:29 on the clock to catch make it 29-28.
The Elite picked up their defense as they held the Nationals to only 33 points at the end of the third quarter. Elite finished the quarter with a one-point lead after they made an 8-4 run against the Nationals.
With the crowd cheering for their teams, the pressure built on both sides in the fourth quarter. A variety of Elite players contributed baskets. Kristina French, Sarah Filush, and San Agustin scored in the fourth to build a 42-33 lead.
Baranda finally picked up the pace for the Nationals. She awakened the fans with a short jumper that hit nothing but net. Follow-up shots by Benito, Derin Santos and Maree Pelkey got the Nationals as close as 42-40 with 2:19 left in the game.
Elite called a timeout to regain some composure. After the timeout, Evangelista hit back-to-back jumpers to extend the lead to 46-40 with less than a minute to play.
Santos livened up the Nationals' crowd when she hit a 3-pointer to close within 46-43 with 30 seconds left in the clock. But a steal by Elite's Mallory Duenas sealed the deal for her team and led the Elite to another game against the Nationals.
"We always fall back together, no matter what the situation," said Acda.