In a game worthy of being written in the annals of their fabled rivalry, defending NCAA Seniors Basketball Champions San Beda University Red Lions averted a huge end-game collapse, surviving arch-rivals Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights, 74-68, Tuesday afternoon at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
But unlike their last four wins that saw them win by an average of 27.5 points per game, the Red Lions let their guards down, which frustrated head coach Boyet Fernandez.
“It was really tough to give up 28 points in the fourth quarter,” rued Fernandez. “If we lost this game, I would’ve taken the responsibility as I let every one play. I hope that they realize what’s happening right now, the game is not yet over until the final buzzer sounds. I hope they realized that.”
San Beda were up by as much as 22 points 67-45 with 6:19 left. But as Fernandez shuffled his personnel, the Knights took advantage.
“It’s really the attitude. When we were up by 22, they thought that the game was over. That’s not acceptable. We are not like that,” added Fernandez.
Limited to just three points in the first five minutes of the final frame, the Knights suddenly woke up. JP Calvo knocked down a triple to spark a huge 19-0 run. Bong Quinto, who was limited to just six points prior to the run, scored 11 points in the rally as he powered his way in the paint.
Donald Tankoua stopped the bleeding with 50 ticks left but Quinto and Calvo were not to be deterred – answering right back with back-to-back baskets to slice the lead to just a solitary point with 16.8 seconds remaining.
Letran had a chance to complete a hijack late. However, a Franz Abuda split on the stripe was rebounded by Joe Presbitero that led to two free throws for the latter. A miss from downtown by Bonbon Batiller proved to be the last straw.
“I thank the players AC [Soberano], Javee [Mocon], Joe, Donald, and Franz for playing in the final minute,” shared Fernandez.
Tankoua powered San Beda with 19 points and nine rebounds. Robert Bolick added 13 points but fouled out with 57.3 still left in the game. Javee Mocon had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
With the win, the Red Lions are now 11-1 in the NCAA Season 94 Seniors Basketball Tournament. Letran, who saw their three-game winning streak snapped, fell to 7-4.
Quinto had 19 points to lead Letran, while Calvo steered the ship with 16 points, seven assists, and five rebounds. The frontcourt duo of Larry Muyang and Christian Fajarito combined for 21 points and 17 boards.
Letran has yet to beat San Beda in their last six outings.
San Beda will next face the Perpetual Altas on Friday, September 14. Letran, on the other hand, look to bounce back when they take on the CSB Blazers on the same day.
SBU 74 — Tankoua 19, Bolick 13, Mocon 12, Abuda 7, Doliguez 7, Oftana 4, Presbitero 4, Cuntapay 3, Nelle 3, Soberano 2, Canlas 0, Cabanag 0, Carino 0, Tongco 0.
CSJL 68 — Quinto 19, Calvo 16, Muyang 11, Fajarito 10, Batiller 6, Ambohot 3, Taladua 3, Balagasay 0, Yu 0, Agbong 0, Celis 0, Mandreza 0, Galvelo 0.
Quarterscores: 16-15, 35-32, 60-42, 74-68.