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San Beda answers back, pushes series to the brink



“There’s no tomorrow. We wanted to start well and set the tempo of the game.” – San Beda College Red Lions

In front of 17,588 fans, the San Beda College Red Lions, not wanting to have a repeat of what occurred in the 2009 NCAA Finals, set the tempo of the game in their favor to extend this classic series to a third and final game, 68-61, Tuesday afternoon at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Playing with a sense of urgency, San Beda jumped out of the gates with a 12-4 start in the early goings as Letran was silenced in its first 11 attempts from the field. The high-low play of the Red Lions gave the frontcourt duo of Art Dela Cruz and Ola Adeogun a combined 10 points in the period. On the other end, Letran sliced the lead down to two with a mid-quarter run but five points by Acee Soberano in the last minute gave SBC a 22-15 lead after the first.

In the 7:36 mark of the second, San Beda tallied six more points to extend their lead to its largest, 28-15. However, Letran’s defense started to pick up as they limited the Mendiola-based crew to only five points in the last seven minutes while stringing up 15 points to end the second quarter. The stretch was initiated by six quick points by Jerrick Balanza while Mark Cruz made two key baskets including a pull up jumper to beat the first half buzzer.

Both teams scored 19 points in the third quarter which was showcased by back-and-forth frantic exchanges between them. Despite a cold start shooting-wise, Mark Cruz caught fire in the third frame as the Ant-Man scored 12 markers to even give the Knights its first lead of the match at the 3:50 mark at 43-42. On San Beda’s end, Mocon powered the Red Lions to a three point lead as he scored his team’s last eight points in the quarter.

Letran led anew in the opening moments of the last quarter with McJour Luib and Kevin Racal combining for five straight points. For the next five minutes of the game, San Beda managed to retake the lead in the close encounter behind Sorela and Amer combining in the run.

The Red Lions entered the penalty situation early, however Letran was not able to take advantage as four key misses by Rey Nambatac was answered by a Dan Sara triple in the three minute mark that served as the nail in the coffin, 66-60. A couple of stops gave the Knights chances but they would only score a solitary point in the last minutes as San Beda’s defense stood tall in the dying moments. Misses by Luib, Cruz, and Racal, the last field goal made by the Knights with 5:49 to go, and six crucial misses from the foul stripe, four coming from Nambatac, killed all the chances for the Knights.

“It is still a classic game and hats off to the Letran fans and coaches,” an exhausted Jamike Jarin said after the game. “Pinaka masaya dito yung fans because they are treated to a classic series.”

When asked about San Beda’s defense that limited the Knights to just 29% shooting (24/83), Jarin remarked that “It has to start with each person. That’s where the defense defense comes from and where the offense will go.”

Jarin also commended the efforts of seniors Baser Amer, who tallied nine points and grabbed 11 boards, and sophomore Javee Mocon, 13 points – 9 coming in the third quarter – and eight boards. “I’m lost for words for these two young men,” he said. “Amer has done this for time and memorial. He’s just a winner. Mocon also, being a sophomore, he played big for us.”

Besides Amer and Mocon, Ola Adeogun added 14 points and eights boards, while Art dela Cruz had 12 points, six rebounds, and six assists.

For Letran, Mark Cruz led the Knights in scoring with 21 points and was able to steal the ball four times. However, he shot just 10/27 from the field. Jom Sollano had ten points while Smart Elite ambassador Rey Nambatac was held scoreless. Nambatac was 0 of 6 from the field and the charity stripe.

As a team, the Red Lions shot an outstanding 56% from the field. They were also able to outrebound their rivals 51-32 that off-set their horrendous 32 turnover game.

The Letran Knights and the San Beda Red Lions will play the final game of the NCAA Season 91 Seniors Basketball tournament on Thursday, October 29 at 4:00pm. Game will be played at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

The Scores:
SBC (68) – Adeogun 14, Mocon 13, Dela Cruz 12, Amer 9, Sorela 7, Soberano 5, Sara 5, Tankoua 3, Koga 0, Cabanag 0, Reyes 0, Presbitero 0, Tongco 0.
CSJL (61) – Cruz 21, Sollano 10, Luib 10, Racal 9, Balanza 6, Calvo 5, Apreku 0, Nambatac 0, Balagasay 0, Quinto 0.
Quarterscores: 22-15, 33-30, 52-49, 68-61.