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Red Lions tackle Chiefs to forge marquee title clash with Green Archers

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In a crucial PCCL game that pit the finalists of this year’s NCAA basketball tournament, the San Beda Red Lions outscored the Arellano Chiefs, 54-31, in the second half to run away as winners, 87-68, Tuesday afternoon at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.

NCAA runners-up Arellano sprang to a quick 9-2 lead in the opening two minutes of the action. Alarmed, Coach Adonis Tierra had no better choice than to regroup his wards. It took a while for San Beda to get their offensive rhythm going as they relied on stingy defense and four Ola Adeogun free-throws to prevent their opponents from widening the gap. Red Lions forward Art dela Cruz and Chiefs point guard John Pinto engaged in a scoring shootout before their teammates followed suit to inject pace to a slow-starting affair, ending the first quarter 22-18, in favor of Arellano.

Both teams were not able to take advantage of each other’s errors that plagued their attacks. Poor shot selection coupled by turnovers meant that most of their measly production came from the free-throw line. The Bedans strung together six unanswered points to bring the score to 26-27. After four minutes of back-and-forth play, Arellano did just enough to stop San Beda from seizing control at halftime, 35-34.

Baser Amer gave San Beda a taste of the lead for the first time in the game by jacking up a wide open three to start the second half. The Chiefs struggled to deal with the Bedan defense, which allowed the Red Lions to take a seven-point advantage midway through the third quarter. After seeing his team virtually shut down, Arellano Head Coach Gerry Codiñera elected to consume a much-needed timeout before Adeogun buried a pair of freebies to stretch San Beda’s lead to nine.

The Chiefs trimmed the deficit to five but faced a problem when center Dioncee Holts collected his fourth foul in the game. San Beda exploded thanks to the masterful performance of Amer, whose team led by as much as nine before ending the period ahead, 62-54.

The NCAA Champions pulled away in the fourth. The triumvirate of Amer, Adeogun, and dela Cruz powered the Red Lions to a lead that grew as big as 21 courtesy of an Amer triple, virtually slamming any hopes of an Arellano comeback with a dominating display of basketball in the final 10 minutes of the game.

The outcome means that the San Beda Red Lions will enter the finals after owning the tiebreaker versus University of San Carlos whom they defeated in Cebu. The Red Lions will face the DLSU Green Archers who claimed a spot in the finals with a 4-0 record. The best-of-three series will begin on Thursday, 4PM, at the Ynares Sports Arena.

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