SAN JUAN City – San Beda College took the first step to break out of a complicated race for playoff position as the 91st National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament hit its penultimate playing date at the San Juan Arena Tuesday (October 6). The defending champion Red Lions went through the wringer before taking care of archrival Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights, 77-73, in the day’s featured match.
The win gave the Red Lions a 13-5 win-loss card, a half-game lead over the 12-5 Knights and most importantly a twice-to-beat advantage in the semifinal round. The Knights must now have to beat the Perpetual Help Altas on Friday (October 9) to force a playoff for the top seeding with SBC as a loss could result in a possible exclusion from the playoffs.
Determined to avenge their 80-93 drubbing to the Knights last July 16, the Red Lions started strong with the inside plays of Ola Adeogun and AC Soberano coming off the bench to drain three triples to give San Beda a commanding 43-25 cushion at the halftime break. Baser Amer then combined well with Donald Tankoua for 14 markers as SBC maintained a 13-point edge entering the final period, 61-48.
Suddenly, the Knights woke up and staged a mighty comeback behind Felix Apreku and rookie Jerrick Balanza with the former connecting to cut the deficit to only five points with 1:04 on the clock, 72-77. SBC then committed a 24-second shot clock violation to return the ball to Letran, forcing them to foul McJour Luib who split his free throws for the final tally with still 38 ticks remaining.
“We just wanted to win today and make the Final Four,” said Coach Jamike Jarin. “We were not thinking of quotients or winning margins so credit to my players for stepping up today especially Ola and AC.”
Adeogun, constantly pestered by Letran’s defense all game long, hit 13 points on top of 15 rebounds. Soberano added one more field goal in the third canto to finish with 11 points.
Rey Nambatac led the charge for Letran with 16 points, four rebounds and four assists before fouling out just before the final two minutes. Mark Cruz added 12 points and four assists.
Later on, the defending champion Red Cubs completed an 18-game sweep of the eliminations with a 76-67 clubbing of the Letran Squires. The Red Cubs thus earned an automatic spot in the finals with a thrice-to-beat advantage with their opponent to be determined after a stepladder playoff among second seed Malayan Science, Arellano and Lyceum-Cavite.
Earlier in the day, the Mapua Institute of Technology (11-6) stayed in the hunt for the Final Four via a 77-72 decision over the College of Saint Benilde (5-13). Arellano University (12-6) clobbered cellar-dweller Emilio Aguinaldo College (2-15), 98-80.
In more Juniors Division action, the Malayan High School of Science (15-2) prevailed over La Salle Green Hills, 64-57, while the Arellano Braves halted the Immaculate Conception Academy Brigadiers, 92-74.
How They Scored:
SAN BEDA (77) – Adeogun 13, Soberano 11, Amer 10, Tankoua 10, Koga 9, Mocon 9, de la Cruz 8, Tongco 3, Cabanag 2, Sorela 2, Sara 0, Presbitero 0, Sedillo 0.
LETRAN (73) – Nambatac 16, Cruz 12, Balanza 11, Luib 9, Quinto 8, Apreku 7, Racal 6, Sollano 2, Calvo 2, Publico 0.
Period Scores: 19-15, 43-25, 61-48, 77-73.