Never doubt the heart of a champion, more so the one of NAASCU’s Rookie-MVP.

Johnsherick Estrada (Photo from PBA)

Johnsherick Estrada showed what he is made up of as he took over in the final frame to help NAASCU champions Adalem Construction-St. Clare eked out a 72-64 victory over EcoOil-La Salle to force a sudden death Game 3 in the semifinals of the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup 2022 on Sunday, Aug. 14, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Estrada’s MVP form was in full display, dropping 11 of his 22 points including the dagger triple he rifled in with 1:50 left in the game to give the Saints a six-point cushion, 70-64, before they held strong grip on the defense end in the waning minutes to escape with the series-equalizing win.

The winner-take-all will be on Wednesday still at the Big dome.

The Green Archers actually had the chance to cut the six-point lead but Deschon Winston muffed two crucial free throws with 45 seconds left.

Joshua Fontanilla, who finished with 21 points, then showed how it’s done on the other end, drilling two free throws to notch the final tally of the game.

After exploding for 24 in Game 1, Winston was held to just five points by St. Clare’s defense on a poor 1-of-10 shooting clip from the field while Gilas standout Kevin Quiambao, who unloaded 18 in the opener, was also limited to just single digit in scoring with nine.

A 14-1 run in the second quarter allowed the Saints to build their biggest lead at 28-20 before holding on to the driver’s seat for the majority of the game. St. Clare however just couldn’t shake off La Salle which stayed within striking distance in the second half.

The Archers even took a slim 52-51 lead heading into the payoff period before Estrada and Fontanilla authored a 11-3 spurt that allowed them to regain foothold, 67-59, with 4:25 remaining.

Benjamin Phillips paced La Salle with 15 points and six rebounds while Babacar Ndong only had two points for St.Clare but collared 15 boards.

Source: Manila Bulletin (