MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Reigning 5-peat champion San Beda College is back in the NCAA Finals for the 10th straight time after defeating upset-minded Jose Rizal University, 78-68, on Tuesday, October 20, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Young gunslinger AC Soberano provided the endgame heroics and led the Red Lions with 10 points, 4 rebounds, one assist, and one steal.
The 5-foot-11 shooting guard buried back-to-back triples and gave San Beda a 49-48 cushion with 1:31 remaining in the third period after several attempts to get the lead.
Aside from Soberano, Baser Amer, and Roldan Sara also played a pivotal role in San Beda’s victory with 11 markers apiece.
Meanwhile, back-up reinforcement Pierre Tankoua stepped up with a double-double performance of 10 points and 10 rebounds to come along with one steal.
The Red Lions struggled to get on the driver’s seat at the start of the third quarter as the Heavy Bombers pummeled the Mendiola-based brigade with a 9-5 blitz that gave JRU an 8-point leverage.
However, San Beda responded with a 9-0 run sparked by a fastbreak layup from Michole Sorela and capped off by two straight triples from Soberano.
As Darius Estrella shifted back the lead to JRU with a go-ahead layup, San Beda sparked a 7-0 backlash steered by second year wingman Javee Mocon.
Although JRU kept its starters on the floor, San Beda head coach Jamike Jarin opted to field in his second unit to finish the game.
Tankoua was able to rattle in 7 points in the final frame, while Mocon and Ranbill Tongco came in and out of the shaded lane to secure the triumph.
“Start of the season, people criticized me too much for playing 15 players every game. I have been criticized for that,” Jarin stated in the post-game interview. “But I have done this from time immemorial. I think everybody is not going to criticize me anymore as the bench delivered.”
Third-year forward Marco Balagtas starred in JRU’s unsuccessful effort to extend the series against San Beda by hauling 14 points and 6 rebounds.
“I would like to congratulate [JRU head] coach Vergel Meneses for a well-run season. He was two games away for making it to the Finals. Credit goes to Vergel,” Jarin said of his coaching counterpart.
JRU, which appeared in its second consecutive Final Four this season, last made a trip to the Finals in 2008 when the Kalentong-based troop yielded to San Beda in 3 games.
San Beda, which is aiming for a 6th consecutive men’s basketball championship and its 9th in 10 years, will face longtime rival Colegio de San Juan de Letran in the best-of-3 Finals affair that starts on Friday, October 23, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Letran overcame the Mapua Institute of Technology in the day’s first game to reach the championship round.
When asked about the match-up with Letran in the Finals, Jarin replied, “It’s going to be interesting.”
San Beda (78) – Amer 11, Sara 11 Soberano 10, Tankoua 10, Mocon 8, Sorela 7, Adeogun 5, Dela Cruz 5, Tongco 4, Koga 3, Reyes 2, Presibitero 2, Cabañag 0, Bonsubre 0, Sedillo 0.
JRU (68) – Balagtas 14, Poutouchi 12, Teodoro 9, Dela Paz 8, Estrella 8, Astilla 6, Pontejos 3, Abdul Wahab 3, Lasquety 2, Sanchez 0, Grospe 0.
Quarter scores: 17-19, 30-32, 56-53, 78-68.
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