Marinerong Pilipino-San Beda fended off Centro Escolar University, 81-72, to secure the No. 1 seed and an outright semifinal ticket in the 2023 PBA Aspirants’ Cup on Tuesday at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan.
The Red Lions wasted a 17-point lead in the first half but saved their best for last, rallying with a 9-1 run to break free from the pesky Scorpions and notch their fifth straight win.
Marinero-San Beda’s only loss came against neophyte PSP Gymers in the opener before stringing together wins to clinch the top spot at 5-1. This secured their position regardless of the outcome of the last game between EcoOil-La Salle (4-1) and Wangs Basketball @27 Strikers-Letran.
Marinero-San Beda won their meeting with Ecooil-La Salle with a score of 82-79.
“The incentive of being No. 1 and being in the semis is of course a welcome for us but at the same time, hindi kami pwede mag-relax. Tataas ‘yung laro sa playoffs so we have to be prepared,” said coach Yuri Escueta.
Jacob Cortez contributed 15 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals to anchor San Beda’s composure after relinquishing a 36-19 lead in the second period.
Team captain Peter Alfaro and Yukien Andrada each scored 11 points, while Clifford Jopia grabbed 11 points and 16 rebounds for the rampaging Red Lions.
Marinero-San Beda surrendered the lead at 52-54 on Ron Rei Tolentino’s basket midway through the third quarter, capping CEU’s blistering 35-16 rally, but they managed to regain control at 60-57 entering the final period.
The game became a back-and-forth battle from that point, but the Red Lions tightened their defense in the last five minutes, turning a precarious 72-71 lead into a nine-point victory as the Scorpions scored only one point.
Tolentino led the Scorpions (3-3) with 25 points. Although their hope for a Top-Two finish came to an abrupt end, they are still assured of a quarterfinal berth.
CEU’s final placing will be determined based on the remaining matches of other contenders.
Marinero-San Beda 81 – Cortez 15, Alfaro 11, Andrada 11, Jopia 11, Payosing 9, Visser 8, Cuntapay 7, Tagle 5, Puno 2, Royo 2, Jalbuena 0, Tagala 0, Gallego 0.
CEU 72 – Tolentino 25, Santos 15, Diaz 12, Balogun 6, Bernabe 5, Borromeo 4, Puray 3, Cabotaje 2, Peñano 0, Joson 0, Ferrer 0, Anagbogu 0.
Quartescores: 19-13, 42-31, 60-57, 81-72.