San Beda relied on its stingy defense to fend off arch-rival Letran, 70-66, to gain solo first in the NCAA Season 95 Seniors Basketball Tournament, Saturday afternoon at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
Besides going to 5-0, the Red Lions also snapped the Knights’ five-game winning streak to fall to 5-2.
“Well, frankly speaking, worried bout this game cause were playing a very strong team in Letran,” shared San Beda head coach Boyet Fernandez. “They’ve been playing well last five games.
“Kami naman di kami nakalaro in two weeks. Medyo masyadong malayo sa amin,” added Fernandez as their games against the CSB Blazers and the Mapua Cardinals were postponed due to inclement weather.
The defending champions needed to work to get this one however.
Up by as much as 13 points in the game — nine with 1:40 left, Letran turned it up. A three-point play by Ato Ular gave the Knights life. Donald Tankoua then fouled out of the game with 55.7 ticks remaining after Bonbon Batiller was able to draw a charge.
Tankoua had 15 points in the game.
With 15 seconds left in the game, Jerrick Balanza drained a stepback triple over Clint Doliguez to chop the lead down to four.
Evan Nelle stepped out of bounds four seconds later to give Letran one last shot. However, Doliguez was able to atone for his defensive lapse, tightly-contesting Balanza’s attempt to seal the win.
“Again, my players did a good job. I salute them for that. They played very good defense. It’s our mantra, to play good defense than offense,” shared Fernandez.
Fernandez also came to the defense of Nelle, who finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, and three assists, but missed three free throws in the last minute and committed eight turnovers.
“I’ll still trust Evan with the free throws even if he missed today,” said Fernandez.
Calvin Oftana and James Canlas also had 11 markers each.
Balanza paced Letran with 20 points, five assists, and three boards. Ato Ular added 11 points and seven rebounds.
Larry Muyang and Jeo Ambuhot though finished with just six and four points, respectively, on a combined 3-of-14 clip.
San Beda will next face the Perpetual Altas on Thursday, August 13 while Letran takes on the San Sebastian Golden Stags on the same day.
SBU 70– Nelle 18, Tankoua 15, Canlas 11, Oftana 11, Alfaro 6, Doliguez 6, Soberano 3, Abuda 0, Bahio 0, Carino 0, Cuntapay 0, Etrata 0
CSJL 66– Balanza 20, Ular 11, Yu 9, Olivario 7, Muyang 6, Ambohot 4, Caralipio 4, Balagasay 4, Batiller 1, Mina 0, Reyson 0, Sangalang 0, Javillonar 0
Quarterscores: 21-17, 39-32, 62-51, 70-66