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Dela Cruz, San Beda roar past Lyceum to climb atop standings

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Despite losing a 20-point lead early in the second half, the San Beda College Red Lions maintained its championship composure that propelled them to an 87-80 win against the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates to end Thursday’s NCAA double-header at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan City.

San Beda was active in the rebounding battle early that led to a 4-0 start to the game. On the other hand, Victor Nguidjol was a rim protector as he swatted shots by the Red Lions guards. Despite missing their first five attempts of the quarter, Lyceum was able to be on par with the 5-time defending champs as the number of lead exchanges piled up. The slow-paced first quarter ended in favor of the Red Lions while they maintained an 18-15 lead.

Too many turnovers haunted the Pirates in the second period while San Beda’s defense played spectacular in the second quarter. The Red Lions outscored the Pirates, 31-16 in the quarter with the starters doing most of the damage both on offense and their defense. Lyceum tried to showcase their own fullcourt pressure defense late in the first half, but San Beda responded with a 5-0 spurt to put an exclamation point in their offensive-filled second quarter capped by a Roldan Sara trey.

Sara would open the second half with a steal and a fastbreak layup to extend the Red Lions lead to its largest at 51-31. However, Lyceum started their fightback with Joseph Gabayni leading the charge. Gabayni scored 14 points in the quarter including a couple of putbacks that pushed the Pirates’ run to slice the lead down to 46-57. San Beda then responded with an 8-0 run in the 3:29 mark including triples from Baser Amer and Radge Tongco to reinstall a 14-point cushion.

Two triples by Lyceum in the final minute broke the double-digit separation before the start of the final period of play. Unfortunately for them, Art Dela Cruz carried his squad with patient baskets from underneath as the pro-bound punched 10 markers in the final quarter. Despite Wilson Baltazar notching his season-high for the Pirates, San Beda’s depth proved to be too much down the stretch as they maintained a comfortable lead with seven minutes left until the end of the game. However, third year guard Dan Sara fell to an injury (pulled hamstring) at the 3:51 mark of the fourth quarter. According to Coach Jude Ruque, Sara will be out for at most 12 days.

“It’s nice, of course, especially coming off a heartbreaking loss,” coach Jamike Jarin said of the team’s win. Jarin added that he played everyone in the roster just so everyone has exposure before the Final Four starts. “You got good effort from everybody. That is what good coaching is about. Just give the best opportunity for everybody, so for the playoffs everybody is ready.” However, some of the combinations tested by Jarin did not work out as the once double-digit lead went to as low as seven. “It was also my fault in my part. I take responsibility for the loss of the lead,” he confessed.

Top two in the MVP race Art dela Cruz led the Red Lions with 25 points, 8 boards, 4 dimes, and three steals. Smart Elite ambassador Baser Amer also had his best outing of the season with 12 points and five assists on 5/8 shooting. Coach Jamike Jarin fielded in 13 players in the game and all but two were able to score.

For the Pirates, Wilson Baltazar led the team with 28 points. Smart Elite ambassador Joseph Gabayni had 24 points on 12/17 shooting and grabbed 11 boards in 33 minutes of action.

As a team, San Beda shot at a high clip at 46% compared to LPU’s 40%. They were also able to outrebound their opponents 46-39.

The San Beda Red Lions (11-3) will next have the San Sebastian Golden Stags (4-10) as their next opponents on Tuesday, September 22 at 4:00pm while the Lyceum Pirates (3-12) have the EAC Generals next on Thursday, September 24 at 2:00pm.

The Scores:

SBC (87) – Dela Cruz 25, Tongco 14, Amer 12, Adeogun 11, Mocon 5, Sara 5, Soberano 4, Tankoua 4, Koga 2, Cabanag 2, Reyes 1, Bonsubre 0, Presbitero 0

LPU (80) – Baltazar 28, Gabayni 24, Alanes 8, Nguidjol 6, Taladua 4, Bulawan 4, Marata 3, Lacastesantos 3, Sunga 0, Malabanan 0, Soliman 0, Mbida 0, Ayaay 0

Quarters: 18-15, 49-31, 67-58, 87-80

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