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San Beda marches on to Finals, utilizes second unit to ground JRU

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In the biggest game of the San Beda College Red Lions this season, San Beda head coach Jamike Jarin did not bring in the usual suspects to finish the game.

The second unit of the defending champions, led by AC Soberano, Javee Mocon, and Donald Tankoua, displayed uncanny confidence and poise as the deep San Beda Red Lions squad booked the second ticket to the NCAA Season 91 Finals in eliminating the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers, 78-68, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on Tuesday evening.

From the get go, San Beda used good ball movement to power them in an 8-2 start behind Baser Amer’s back-to-back threes to initate the game. However, JRU was able to rally back with Paolo Pontejos inserted to their starting guard as the veteran guard anchored a 7-1 response to tie things up early, halfway in the first period. The Red Lions committed five turnovers in the opening frame while the Bombers took advantage as the closely-contested quarter ended in their favor, up by two.

The energetic second unit of the San Beda crew showed up efficiently as they piled up an 8-2 run to start the next quarter. Despite the two teams struggling with their offensive game, JRU responded with a run of their own and install a 31-25 lead behind balanced-scoring from their five on the floor. The tight defense of the Heavy Bombers helped them to maintain the small lead at the break as they also outscored the Red Lions in the paint, 18-6 after two 20 minutes of action.

By the 7:02 mark of the third, JRU maintained its 39-33 lead with Pontejos and Teodoro making plays for the Bombers. On the other end, the veterans of San Beda also chipped in with needed points to keep up with the fourth-seeded crew. The game started to become a shootout after a defensive-oriented first half. The Heavy Bombers built its largest lead of the match at 48-40 just before San Beda unleashed a 9-0 response which included two straight hits from downtown by Acee Soberano.

The stretch suddenly injected momentum towards the seemingly awakened Red Lions as successive fast break points in the last moments of the third canto gave them a 56-53 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Shaw Boulevard cagers managed to tie things up at the first minute of the fourth but San Beda responded down the stretch as an energetic run gave them a 66-58 separation.

In the final five minutes of play, the Vergel Meneses-mentored squad had multiple chances with their stops against the Red Lions crew. As San Beda sat out its veteran crew of Baser Amer, Art Dela Cruz and Ola Adeogun, JRU was able to make the game close with Balagtas making scoring eight straight points for his team. However, the unit of Radge Tongco, AC Soberano, Dan Sara, Javee Mocon, and Donald Tankoua proved to be sufficient against the Bombers as San Beda are now two wins away from capping their six-peat hopes in the NCAA.

“First off, I would like to give glory to God for everything that we have accomplished this season,” a grateful coach Jamike Jarin said after the game. “I would also like to give credit to Coach Vergel Meneses for the amazing work he has done for JRU and its basketball program.”

In using and having the confidence of using his second and third stringers in the most crucial moments of this game, coach Jamike Jarin admitted that this was because of the struggles of the first unit. “The starting unit was struggling while the second unit had the energy.” He also added that, “by just looking at the body language of my players, the second unit still had it. The starters were cheering on the bench while the unit that was on the floor told me that they can finish the game.”

He closed in saying, “I have been criticized for using 15 players and that I had no killer instinct. The bench delivered and I proved the doubters wrong.”

Four players scored in double-digits for the Red Lions. Smart Elite ambassador Baser Amer and Dan Sara both chipped in 11 points a piece with Amer adding five boards while Sara had three rebounds and three dimes. Donald Tankoua tallied a double-double with ten points and ten boards.

For the Heavy Bombers, Marco Balagtas led the team in scoring 14 markers, ten coming in the fourth quarter. He was 50% from the field and grabbed six boards as well. Abdoul Poutouochi added 12 points and eight boards. On the downside, Smart Elite ambassador Tey Teodoro was limited to just nine points on a horrible 4/15 shooting clip.

As a team, the Red Lions where 40% from the field compared to just 37% for their opponents. San Beda though shot more free throws, 17 makes on 26 attempts, while JRU attempted just nine free throws making six.

The San Beda College Red Lions advance to the Finals for the tenth straight season. They will face rivals Letran Knights on Friday, October 23 at 4:00pm. The JRU Heavy Bombers will finish the season at fourth place.

The Scores:
SBC (78) – Amer 11, Sara 11, Soberano 10, Tankoua 10, Mocon 8, Solera 7, Adeogun 5, Dela Cruz 5, Tongco 4, Koga 3, Reyes 2, Prebitero 2, Cabanag 0, Bonsubre 0, Sedillo 0.
JRU (68) – Balagtas 14, Poutouochi 12, Teodoro 9, Dela Paz 8, Estrella 8, Astilla 6, Pontejos 6, Abdulrazak 3, Lasquety 2, Sanchez 0, Grospe 0.
Quarterscores: 17-19, 30-32, 56-53, 78-68.

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