MANILA, Philippines – It’s champion versus champion anew in the Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup finals.
NCAA champion San Beda Red Lions tripped the St. Benilde Blazers, 76-71, in their semifinal duel on Friday, June 29, to arrange a finals showdown against UAAP titlist Ateneo.
The Blue Eagles – who disposed of the Far Eastern University Tamaraws in their own semifinal pairing – and the Red Lions will clash in the winner-take-all title match on Saturday, June 30, at 6:30 pm.
“I give credit to St. Benilde, they really played well tonight,” said Fernandez. “Good job for coach Ty [Tang] for a very good game plan.”
“It’s just the breaks of the game, he added. “Probably, if they made their shots in that last one minute, they would probably change the course of the ball game.”
Star center Donald Tankoua topscored for the Red Lions with 14 points, but later got disqualified from the game after a technical following an offensive foul.
San Beda rookie Evan Nelle dropped a triple with less than 3 minutes left in regulation to extend the Red Lions’ lead to 9 points, 69-60.
Justin Gutang immediately answered with a triple for St. Benilde, 64-69, and got fouled on another trey attempt with 41 seconds left. He sank all 3 of his charities to put the Blazers within 3, 69-72.
Following a rebound off a missed Unique Naboa trey, Nigerian reinforcement Toba Eugene calmly iced the game with two free-throws, 74-69, with 20 ticks left.
San Beda led by as many as 10 points, 44-34, in the 3rd quarter, before Gutang and Clement Leutcheu bolstered the Blazers side with a 15-7 run to creep within two, 49-51. They ended the quarter just down one, 53-54.
Eugene also finished with 14 points, while Gilas 2023 cadet Javee Mocon had a 13-point, 12-rebound double-double.
A blazing Gutang, meanwhile, fired a game-high 22 points on a 3-of-6 clip (50%) from downtown for Benilde.
The Red Lions look to defend their crown, nabbing it last year over another UAAP champion, the La Salle Green Archers, who then had two-time MVP Ben Mbala and champion coach Aldin Ayo.
SAN BEDA (78) – Tankoua 14, Eugene 14, Mocon 13, Doliguez 11, Bolick 9, Canlas 6, Nelle 5, Abuda 3, Cuntapay 3, Presbitero 0, Tongco 0, Oftana 0, Cabanag 0.
ST. BENILDE (71) – Gutang 22, Leutcheu 15, Haruna 11, Pasturan 8, Belgica 4, Dixon 4, Naboa 3, Domingo 2, Pagulayan 2, Carlos 0, Young 0, Nayve 0, Velasco 0.
Quarter Scores: 20-19, 40-34, 54-53, 78-71.