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Basketball

NCAA 99: Jacob Cortez keeps San Beda alive, disarms Lyceum


Jacob Cortez’s career game for San Beda University was too much to handle for Lyceum of the Philippines University.

The third-year guard who is the son of Mike Cortez led the Red Lions to an 89-68 blowout of the Pirates to force a rubber match in the Final Four of the NCAA Season 99 Seniors Basketball Tournament on Tuesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

Cortez dropped a career-high 28 points, accompanied by four rebounds and eight assists, overwhelming the Lyceum defense almost single-handedly.

“Jacob knows how to play. Hinahayaan ko lang naman siya, he knows how to pick his spots. Whatever the defense is giving him, he’s gonna take. He knows the reads, alam niya yan. I trust him in that, his teammates trust him that he’s gonna make the right decisions, the simple ones and the easiest ones,” shared head coach Yuri Escueta.

As the second seed, Lyceum has one more opportunity to eliminate the Red Lions on Friday at 3:00 p.m. at the SMART Araneta Coliseum in a do-or-die matchup.

The Red Lions seized a double-digit advantage by the second quarter and refused to look back, going up by as much as 18 points, 52-34, after an and-1 from Jomel Puno with 1:10 left before halftime.

The Pirates managed to pull back within single digits in the third quarter, 52-44, with a layup from Enoch Valdez early in the frame at 8:42 on the clock. Jacob Cortez quickly extinguished the fires by knocking down a midrange jumper and a triple, restoring the lead to 13, 57-44.

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The Red Lions continued to counter any punches the Pirates threw, dominating the fourth quarter and jumping out to the biggest lead of the game at 21.

After the game, Escueta shared that he and his staff emphasized to the San Beda squad to focus their minds on the game at hand rather than looking at the bigger picture, especially with a finals appearance hanging in the balance.

“I just told my players na we’re not even thinking of the championship. Itong game lang ito, we want to stay in the present and get this first game. We’ll worry about the next game when we get there. Ito lang, sinasabi ko focus lang tayo sa game na ito. We know what we need to do, we have to lock in defensively, and just focus on it,” explained Escueta.

Yukien Andrada and Nygel Gonzales provided much-needed support to Cortez’s offensive explosion, each contributing 12 points. San Beda’s rookie forward Jomel Puno was also vital with a near double-double of seven points and nine rebounds.

The Red Lions have won five straight games dating back to the second round as they demolished Lyceum’s twice-to-beat advantage, securing another shot at the finals.

For the Pirates, Enoch Valdez led the way with 14 points and nine boards. Mclaude Guadanaa and John Barba chipped in with 12 points and 10 points, respectively.

The Scores:

San Beda 89- Cortez 28, Andrada 12, Gonzales 12, Payosing 9, Puno 7, Visser 6, Tagle 6, Jopia 6, Alfaro 2, Cuntapay 1, Tagala 0, Torres 0

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Lyceum 68- Valdez 14, Guadana 12, Barba 10, Cunanan 9, Umali 8, Villegas 6, Bravo 4, Montano 3, Omandac 2, Penafiel 0, Saure 0, Fuentes 0, Versoza 0

Quarterscores: 22-16, 52-38, 73-60, 89-68

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