The San Beda Red Lions maintained their composure late in the game to outlast the gutsy Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers, 81-77, to advance to the Filoil Flying V Hanes premier Cup for the second year in a row.
The game was close in the opening minutes of the game as JRU held a 13-9 lead before the game’s first timeout. The Red Lions then unleashed a furious rally behind the all-around game of Art dela Cruz. Ryusei Koga found Dela Cruz, who connected with his patented hook shots in two straight possessions, to tie the game. The versatile forward then rewarded Koga with a wide open three pointer and dished a nifty pass to Rambill Tongco to gain an 18-3 lead. Spitfire guard Paolo Pontejos entered the game afterwards and scored on two straight possessions. However, Dan Sara went toe-to-toe with Pontejos in scoring five points to give SBC a 25-17 lead to end the half.
The Red Lions extended their lead to 30-19 with 8:15 remaining in the quarter. But a minute later, SBC was penalized with their fifth foul. The Heavy Bombers took advantage of this in attempting eight free throws the rest of the way while Pontejos connected with long range bombs to cut the lead to just three points 32-29. SBC co-captain Ola Adeogun then entered the game and was unstoppable in the paint, including a highlight dunk, to again extend the lead 44-33 going into halftime.
The Red Lions then turned it up on the defensive end in limiting JRU to just 13 points in the quarter while scoring 18 points on the other end. It was a struggle for the Heavy Bombers to score in the quarter with almost half of their points coming from the charity stripe. For the Red squad, Koga and Dela Cruz again teamed up on offense to further the lead. JRU went with its pressure defense late in the quarter, but was quickly broken by Dela Cruz as he coasted through the defense and score on a breakaway layup. SBC led by 62-46 before entering the final frame of the game.
Dela Cruz and Amiel Soberano exchanged assists and conversions to give the Red Lions its biggest lead in the game 67-46. The line-up of Mark Dela Virgen, Razak Abdulwahab, Dave Sanchez, Teodoro and Pontejos then unleashed a furious 18-3 run to make a game of this semifinals match-up 70-65. The rally was capped by two straight Teodoro assists to Pontejos. The rally continued with back-to-back three pointers by Teodoro to cut the lead to three. After conversions by Dela Cruz and Koga that gave SBC a five point cushion, a costly foul by JP Mendoza on Teodoro, who was attempting a three pointer, again cut a 79-77 lead. Art, however, split his free throws to give JRU a glimmer of hope. However, Teodoro missed two straight potential game-tying three pointers and a free throw by Soberano sealed the game.
After the game, Coach Jamike Jarin was excited about facing DLSU once more in the Premier Cup. “Isn’t it ironic that the first game of the tournament is also the last?” However, Jarin did not share his “secrets” like the insane jumpball to start the game, which pitted Koga against Poutouochi, and his 3-2 zone defense he implemented during the game.
SBC shot 53% from the field and connected on 82% of their free throws. For JRU, they shot 41% from the field and just 65% from the charity stripe.
Art dela Cruz had an excellent outing with 22 points and dished out eight assists. Tongco scored 13 points, shooting 66% from the field. Pontejos and Teodoro scored 22 and 20 respectively. Pontejos also connected with four three pointers.
The SBC Red Lions will face the DLSU Green Archers in the finals at 5:00pm on Sunday, June 14.
SBC 81 – Dela Cruz 22, Tongco 13, Soberano 10, Koga 9, Adeogun 7, Sorela 7, Sara 6, Tankoua 2, Mocon 0, Reyes 0, Sedulo 0
JRU 77 – Pontejos 22, Teodoro 20, Dela Paz 11, Sanchez 10, Abdulwahab 5, Poutouochi 4, Dela Virgen 3, Gorospe 2, Balagtas 0, Aurin 0