MANILA, Philippines - San Beda College lives to play another day as the Red Lions avoided a series sweep by Colegio de San Juan de Letran with a 68-61 victory on Tuesday, October 27 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
After suffering a 94-90 setback at the hands of the Knights from Muralla last week, the Mendiola-based Red Lions tied the best-of-3 championship showdown by taking Game 2 and forging a deciding Game 3 on Thursday, October 29.
With the victory over Letran, San Beda kept its bid for a record-setting sixth-straight NCAA basketball crown alive.
Javee Mocon and Baser Amer played a pivotal role in San Beda’s must-need triumph against Letran as second-year Bedan forward registered 13 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 blocks, while the graduating court general flirted a double-double performance of 9 markers, 11 boards and 4 dimes.
“I have lost for words for these two boys,” San Beda head coach Jamike Jarin said of Mocon and Amer in the post-game interview.
With the venue painted in red and blue with 17,588 fans in attendance, it was a high-octane contest from the first quarter. San Beda’s signature run-and-gun was in full swing, bombarding Letran with a 6-0 run before Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal answered back with their own 4-0 blitz for the Knights.
Art Dela Cruz found a way to silence the raucous Letran crowd by feeding the ball to Ola Adeogun for back-to-back baskets and scoring his own hook layup to get a 14-6 cushion.
With Racal and Jomari Sollano tuning up the offense for Letran, back-up guard John Calvo slashed the San Beda lead into a two-point deficit, 15-17.
However, San Beda managed to close out the opening salvo with a 22-15 edge with the conversions by AC Soberano from downtown and two out of 3 from the charity line.
Playing pressure defense of a defensive team like Letran, the Red Lions were able to balloon their lead to 13 points with a 6-0 barrage to jolt the early proceedings of the second canto.
However, Letran bit back to shrink the deficit with an 11-0 excursion that started from Jerrick Balaza’s 3 free-throws and then capped off with a swift jumper from Jomari Sollano.
As the Red shirts managed to punch 3 points from Michole Sorela’s split charities and Dela Cruz’s bucket, Cruz had a personal 4-0 run to conclude the second period with San Beda only bannering a 3-point advantage entering halftime.
With Cruz and Sollano operating Letran’s frontline unit, Adeogun managed to make his way inside the shaded area for 3-straight baskets to give San Beda a 39-36 lead.
Showing that his miniature size could overcome greater heights, Cruz responded with two jumpers and then delivered a beyond-the-arc shot to furnish Letran’s first taste of the lead, 43-42.
The Red Lions shifted back the momentum on their side as Mocon towered over his defenders for 3 consecutive buckets, including an intrepid reverse layup.
Even though San Beda was up by 3 points when the final frame commenced, McJour Luib surprised a triple to tie the ball game at 52 apiece before Racal’s layup placed Letran with a two-point lead.
Sensing the urgency as the Aldin Ayo-mentored brigade already found their groove on the floor, the Red Lions pounced the gritty Knights with a 6-0 run that was sparked by Sorela.
Luib put Letran within striking distance with a 3-pointer, but Amer replied with 5-straight points as San Beda got the edge at 63-57 with 6:13 remaining.
The Knights had the chance to inch them closer to the Red Lions, but Rey Nambatac botched his two trips to the foul line, while Calvo and Luib split their respective freebies.
Cruz and Racal missed their 3-point opportunity, while Racal was caught out-of-bounce as he intended to launch a triple as well.
Roldan Sara and Mocon secured the game’s turning point for San Beda with Sara’s three-pointer and the finishing touches by Mocon.
Along with Mocon and Amer, Adeogun and Dela Cruz had strong scoring outputs as they scored 14 and 12 points, respectively.
Despite winning Game 2 against Letran to tie the series, San Beda committed 32 turnovers, which the Knights were able to convert 22 points from.
On the other hand, Letran had a solid game from Cruz, who hauled 21 points, 6 rebounds, two assists and four steals.
Luib and Sollano made 10 markers each for Letran, while Racal finished with silent 9 points.
San Beda (68) – Adeogun 14, Mocon 13, Dela Cruz 12, Amer 9, Sorela 7, Soberano 5, Sara 5, Tankoua 3, Koga 0, Cabañag 0, Reyes 0, Presbitero 0, Tongco 0
Letran (61) – Cruz 21, Sollano 10, Luib 10, Racal 9, Balanza 6, Calvo 5, Apreku 0, Nambatac 0, Balagasay 0, Quinto 0
Quarter scores: 22-15, 33-30, 52-49, 68-61. – Rappler.com