A former champion advanced while the defending champions were able to keep their season alive
Despite the circumstances surrounding them, the San Beda College Red Booters vented their frustration on the top-seeded College of Saint Benilde Blazers, 2-0, Monday evening.
San Beda ended the elimination round as the top seed, but the league punished them after it was revealed that they had fielded an ineligible player. The two games that the school had to forfeit resulted in the defending champions dropping to fourth.
Wally Magtoto registered an early goal a minute before the half-hour mark to set the tone for the Red Booters, despite the team being on the back foot most of the time.
In the second period, the Blazers produced several chances to equalize but the San Beda defense held and goalkeeper Michael Asong was in his element. A defensive lapse deep into added time sealed Benilde’s doom, as Nimrod Balabat — who assisted in the first — secured San Beda’s victory.
Red Booters’ youthful mentor Nieboy Pedimonte was pleased with how his boys handled their situation after having lost that twice-to-beat edge due to the eligibility issue.
“Sabi ko sa kanila, we still have chances,” he told the Lions the day they discovered the problem, near the end of the elims. “Aim lang natin bago matapos yung taon is to get to the Final Four, and we did.”
Pedimonte shared that the biggest factor in this win was their determination.
“Yung attitude lang na hindi bumibigay sa game, yun yung nag-transpire sa game na to,” he added.
Event hosts Chiefs carved out a masterful 3-1 victory over the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates earlier in the day to move on to the best-of-three Finals.
Charles Gamutan and Roberto Corsarme Jr. scored in the 46th and 56th minutes of the first match to virtually seal that championship berth. Patrick Bernarte then put on the cherry on top with a vicious strike from the spot 15 minutes later.
Levi Malihan took one back for the Lyceum in the 81st minute, but the result was already beyond doubt.
Football rivals Blazers and Red Booters will square off once more on Wednesday, January 10, at 6pm in the same venue. The winner will face the Chiefs in the Finals.