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23rd on ’23: San Beda regains NCAA throne after four years


Going through an exodus, a nightmare losing streak, before taking on the top-ranked Mapua University, no one expected San Beda University to win it all in NCAA Season 99.

But no one told that to second-year head coach Yuri Escueta and the Red Lions.

Behind the hot-shooting of Yukien Andrada, the tenacity of James Payosing, and the will of Jacob Cortez, San Beda took down Mapua in Game 3 of the Finals, 76-66, to regain the NCAA Seniors Basketball crown after five years on Sunday in front of 23,077 fans at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

It was a surreal moment for Escueta, who lost the likes of Tony Ynot and Justine Sanchez during the off-season and suffered defeats to lowly teams like Arellano University, San Sebastian College-Recoletos, and University of Perpetual Help System DALTA a few weeks before the Final Four.NCAA-99-Finals-MU-vs.-SBU-Coach-Yuri-2 23rd on '23: San Beda regains NCAA throne after four years Basketball MIT NCAA News SBC  - philippine sports news

“Personally, of course, I’m happy. At the same time, I’m very happy for my players. These are the guys who stayed and said to themselves, ‘This is us; we’re going to work hard for this,’” said Escueta, who is just in his second year as Red Lions head coach.

“Wala na tayong ibang titingan pa kung hindi sino nasa tabi mo. pinagtrabuhan namin ito start January last year. Lahat pinagdaanan namin.”

Bowing in Game 1, 68-63, before bouncing back in Game 2, 65-71,  the Red Lions zoned in on the Cardinals early in the final frame to avoid the same fate it experienced in the opener.

A couple of free throws by Payosing followed by an Andrada trey and a Cortez bucket gave the Red Lions a 68-61 lead halfway through the quarter.

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The likes of Cliff Jopia then followed suit as the lead went to as high as 10 points with under two minutes left.

The Cardinals went trigger-happy from deep in the closing minutes of the game but to no avail.

Alas, the title they lost to Letran in Season 95 is back.

The 23rd title has been claimed in 2023.

“Second round we were struggling, but again these guys, the players said to themselves we have to be resilient. And sanay sila sa adversity early in the season, and it’s something we were able to bring into this run for us,” furthered Escueta as San Beda won eight of its last nine games — including toppling the twice-to-beat advantage of Lyceum in the semis.NCAA-99-Finals-MU-vs.-SBU-James-Payosing-2 23rd on '23: San Beda regains NCAA throne after four years Basketball MIT NCAA News SBC  - philippine sports news

Payosing, a third-year energy winger, was adjudged Finals MVP with his norms of 9.67 points and 12.0 rebounds.

“Hindi ko inexpect kasi inalam ko lang yung role ko. Yung main man namin si Jacob yung front talaga namin, at ako lang sa likod ni Jacob na umalalay sa kanila sa team. Kung ano yung role ko, rebounder, defender, yung mga scoring bonus na lang yan sa mga rebounds,” said the 21-year-old winger out of Surigao, who got 11 points and 14 rebounds in the finale.

Andrada finished with 20 points and six rebounds while Cortez, who cramped up late in the third quarter but still managed to finish the game, added eight points and eight assists.

Rookie Nygel Gonzales, who went to Malayan for his high school studies, chipped in 10 points.NCAA-99-Finals-MU-vs.-SBU-Damie-Cuntapay 23rd on '23: San Beda regains NCAA throne after four years Basketball MIT NCAA News SBC  - philippine sports news

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Peter Alfaro, Damie Cuntapay, and Cliff Jopia played their final years for San Beda.

NCAA-99-Finals-MU-vs.-SBU-Warren-Bonifacio 23rd on '23: San Beda regains NCAA throne after four years Basketball MIT NCAA News SBC  - philippine sports newsDitto for Mapua’s Warren Bonifacio, who was limited to four points and seven rebounds.

JC Recto paced the Cardinals with 18 points while reigning MVP Clint Escamis was held to just 13 points on 4-of-22 shooting.

It was another heartbreaking end for Mapua, which only lost five games this season.

The Scores:

San Beda 76– Andrada 20, Payosing 11, Gonzales 10, Cortez 8, Royo 6, Jopia 6, Tagle 4, Alfaro 4, Puno 3, Visser 2, Cuntapay 2

Mapua 66– Recto 18, Escamis 13, Rosillo 10, Hernandez 6, Cuenco 5, Dalisay 5, Bonifacio 4, Soriano 3, Fornis 2, Bancale 0, Sabsalon 0

Quarterscores: 24-15, 36-35, 53-57, 76-66

Written By

Vito Martin is a sportswriter from the Philippines. In 2023, he graduated from the Ateneo De Manila University with a degree in BS Psychology. He wrote for Ateneo’s official school publication The GUIDON, where he covered basketball, football, baseball, badminton, and other collegiate sports. He is a life-long fan of the Boston Celtics and an avid follower of the NBA


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