MANILA, Philippines – The San Beda Red Lions bucked a torrid start from their historic rival Letran Knights to pull off a 76-68 turnaround win in the NCAA Season 98 men’s basketball tournament at the FilOil EcoOil Centre on Friday, September 30.
James Kwekuteye led the win with a team-high 17 points to go with 11 rebounds and 5 assists, while JB Bahio also recorded a double-double finish with 16 points and 13 boards as San Beda rose to a 3-2 record.
After Letran dropped seven threes in the first quarter to bury San Beda by 17, 33-16, the scrappy Red Lions patiently clawed their way back in the second half, and eventually took a 52-51 lead midway through the third off a Kwekuteye steal and a Jacob Cortez layup.
This started a thrilling back-and-forth between the two heated rivals, highlighted by back-to-back Kurt Reyson triples halfway through the final frame to get within one, 65-66.
However, the two-time defending champions ran out of ammunition too early as multiple Reyson and Fran Yu misses down the stretch enabled San Beda to dictate the tempo late, and keep a 72-68 lead after a Bahio layup with 2:20 left.
Both teams then clamped down on defense and remained scoreless until the last 32.7 ticks of regulation, when Letran big man Pao Javillonar got an untimely unsportsmanlike foul – leading to a pair of game-sealing Kwekuteye free throws and a Red Lions bonus possession as the cherry on top.
Reyson paced the tough loss with a 20-point outing, followed by 17 each from Yu and King Caralipio as the Knights tumbled down to a 3-2 slate.
Meanwhile, the Mapua Cardinals continued their run of misfortune in the early stages of the tournament after the JRU Heavy Bombers earned a 67-64 overtime win, their third straight after a 0-2 start.
Joshua Guiab led the way with a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double, while Marwin Dionisio and Agem Miranda scored 15 and 13, respectively for the 3-2 Heavy Bombers.
Brian Lacap was Mapua’s lone double-digit scorer with 13 points as Adrian Nocum was shackled to just 8 points on a frigid 3-of-19 clip in over 39 minutes on the floor.
The Cardinals – pegged as return finals contenders – now carry a 1-5 record after winning their opening day assignment.
San Beda and JRU will put their respective winning streaks on the line on Tuesday, October 4, 12 pm, while Mapua guns for a much-needed end to its slide on Wednesday, October 5, 12 pm, against the league-leading CSB Blazers.
Letran also returns on Wednesday for a 3 pm main event against the San Sebastian Stags.
JRU 67 – Guiab 17, Dionisio 15, Miranda 13, Sy 8, Gonzales 8, Amores 2, Celis 2, Medina 2, Delos Santos 0, Arenal 0, Dela Rosa 0, Villarin 0, Joson 0.
Mapua 64 – Lacap 13, Bonifacio 9, Nocum 8, Gamboa 7, Hernandez 6, Garcia 6, Pido 5, Agustin 5, Soriano 3, Salenga 2, Igliane 0, Parinas 0.
Quarters: 19-14, 36-36, 50-47, 60-60, 67-64.
San Beda 76 – Kwekuteye 17, Bahio 16, Alfaro 13, Ynot 7, Visser 6, Cortez 5, Cuntapay 5, Andrada 5, Jopia 2, Cometa 0, Tagala 0.
Letran 68 – Reyson 20, Caralipio 17, Yu 17, Javillonar 8, Monje 4, Olivario 2, Santos 0, Tolentino 0, Guarino 0, Miclat 0.
Quarters: 16-33, 42-43, 57-55, 76-68.