PASAY CITY – It will be San Beda and Letran for the 91st National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Seniors Basketball championship after they disposed of their Final Four opponents Wednesday (October 20) at the Mall of Asia Arena. The defending champion Red Lions clobbered the Jose Rizal Heavy Bombers, 78-68, while the Knights slipped past the Mapua Cardinals, 91-90.
Coach Jamike Jarin used his second stringers to finish the job, as they outscored JRU in the fourth period, 22-15. Donald Tankoua, Dan Sara and Ranbill Tongco delivered the key baskets to hold off the Bombers’ repeated rallies.
After Darius Estrella tied the game for the last time with a triple at the start of the fourth, Tankoua and Sara dropped back-to-back three-point plays. Earlier, JRU looked well in control until a big SBC late in the third powered by two straight triples from AC Soberano that gave them the lead with 1:31 to play, 49-48.
“I have been criticized all year long for my strategies,” said Coach Jarin. “I looked at my starters on the bench and they seemed happy and I saw my subs on the floor had a lot of energy.”
Baser Amer and Sara paced the Red Lions with 11 points each. Also hitting twin digits were Tankoua and Soberano with 10 markers each.
Marco Balagtas topped the Heavy Bombers with 14 points, 10 coming in the fourth period. Abdoul Poutouochi followed with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Letran leaned anew on the second half heroics of Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal to get the first ticket to the Finals. Cruz poured 13 of his 24 points in the third period while Racal made nine of his 19 in the final canto.
Solid free throw shooting down the stretch by the graduating duo preserved the win. A CJ Isit triple with a second left settled the final count but it was not enough.
Meanwhile, the Arellano Braves will challenge defending champion San Beda Red Cubs for the Juniors Division title after they clipped the Malayan High School of Science Red Robins, 85-79. The undefeated Red Cubs of Coach JB Sison will enjoy the thrice to beat advantage and shoot for their seventh straight championship, a streak that began in 2009.
The pair of Lars Sunga and Guilmer de la Torre powered the Braves with 23 points each. “Our goal was to make the Final Four and we will work from there,” said Braves coach Tylon Dar Juan.
How They Scored:
LETRAN (91) – Cruz 24, Racal 19, Sollano 16, Nambatac 12, Quinto 10, Calvo 4, Apreku 3, Luib 3, Balanza 0, Publico 0.
MAPUA TECH (90) – Biteng 17, Nimes 15, Menina 15, Isit 11, Oraeme 10, Nieles 10, Serrano 10, Brana 2, Aguirre 0.
Period Scores: 21-17, 45-42, 67-70, 91-90.
SAN BEDA (78) – Amer 11, Sara 11, Soberano 10, Tankoua 10, Mocon 8, Sorela 7, Adeogun 5, de la Cruz 5, Tongco 4, Koga 3, Reyes 2, Presbitero 2, Cabanag 0, Bonsubre 0, Sedillo 0.
JOSE RIZAL (68) – Balagtas 14, Poutouochi 12, Teodoro 9, de la Paz 8, Estrella 8, Astilla 6, Pontejos 6, Abdulwahab 3, Lasquety 2, Sanchez 0, Grospe 0.
Period Scores: 17-19, 30-32, 56-53, 78-68.