San Beda moves closer to 5th straight NCAA title with game 1 win
MANILA, Philippines - One more win.
That's what separates the San Beda Red Lions from winning their fifth straight NCAA men's basketball tournament championship, and their eighth in the last 10 years.
That became the case after the Red Lions relied on their championship experience and clutch execution on offense in the fourth quarter to take down the pesky Arellano Chiefs, 74-66, and win game 1 of their best-of-three finals series on Monday, October 20, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Game 2 is on Wednesday, October 22, also at the MOA Arena. Tip-off is at 1:30 pm.
"We're happy that we got game one but we just won one game," San Beda head coach Boyet Fernandez said after the game. "We'll probably enjoy this moment for an hour," he later said.
Baser Amer led the way with 17 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds, while Ola Adeogun put up 14 markers and 14 boards. Art Dela Cruz also pitched in by putting up 13 markers.
"I'm really happy with the way the boys played," Fernandez said.
"I gave [them] a challenge and I think they all responded to that."
"Hopefully," he said later on. "We can carry it over to Wednesday's game."
"We still have one more to win the championship."
The Red Lions were ahead for most of the second half until consecutive steals led to baskets for Arellano's Jiovani Jalalon, who cut San Beda's lead to 5, 61-56, with a little over 6 minutes to go in the game.
However, Jalalon, who finished with 9 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists, fouled out on the next possession. Not long after, a basket by Adeogun put his team back up by 7.
With 3:10 to go, Amer found a cutting Dela Cruz who hit a baseline floater that gave San Beda another double-digit lead. After the Chiefs responded with a basket, a step-back jumper by Ryusei Koga made the count 69-59 and proved to be the finishing blow for the Red Lions.
"We just have to be ready for Wednesday," said an urgent Fernandez, who was complimentary of Jalalon's play.
"We just have to match up his intensity," he said.
"He's an overall guy. We just have to outhustle him. Outwork him."
Keith Agovida led Arellano with 14 points, but went 4-of-13 from the free throw line - most misses coming in the second half.
NCAA Season 90 men's basketball Rookie of the Year Dioncee Holts had 11 points and 4 rebounds, while Nichole Bangga put up 9 markers.
As a team, SBC shot 42% from the field but made only a pedestrian 54% of their free throw attempts, which Coach Fernandez called "unethical." The Red Lions, however, was better from 3-point range after going 7-of-15, while their opponents were 2-of-11.
Arellano shot just 34% from the field, but outrebounded San Beda 52-49.
The Red Lions didn't waste any time getting down to business by establishing an 11-2 lead in the early going thanks to quality defense and good ball movement on offense.
Thanks to the heroics of Jalalon, the league's Most Improved Player of the Year, Arellano managed to trim the lead to eight. However, the Red Lions responded well by leaning on Amer, whose 3-ball put San Beda up 24-11 towards the end of the first quarter.
"We really started well in the first quarter... Because the guys really stepped up," Fernandez said about his team's quick start.
After SBC extended their lead to 9, the Chiefs started to build a rhythm in the second period and went on a 6-0 run to make the count 28-25. In desperate need of a basket, the Red Lions turned to Amer who hit a much-needed free throw that made the count 31-27.
Arellano, though, didn't give in easily and tied the contest at 31 not long after. With their lead gone, the Red Lions slowed the pace of the game by playing their offense through their starting center. After Adeogun's charity put his club back up by 1, Anthony Semerad, who finished with 14 total points, was left wide open and hit a right win 3-pointer that commenced a 9-0 run for the four-time defending champions.
Arellano, who's in the NCAA men's basketball finals for the first time in school history, failed to match their opponents' championship-level intensity to end the second quarter and trailed 40-31 entering halftime.
SBC (74): Amer 17, Semerad A 14, Adeogun 14, Dela Cruz 13, Pascual 7, Sara 5, Koga 2, Mendoza 2, Cabanag 0, Mocon 0, Semerad D 0, Tongco 0
AU (66): Agovida 14, Holts 11, Jalalon 9, Bangga 9, Pinto 6, Gumaru 5, Salcedo 4, Ciriacruz 4, Nicholls 2, Enriquez 2, Hernandez 0, Palma 0, Caperal 0, Cadavis 0
Quarter Scores: 26-17, 40-31, 59-48, 74-66