MANILA, Philippines—Dragged into another tight endgame, the San Beda Red Cubs proved steadier this time.
The defending champion Red Cubs showed steely nerves down the stretch as they nipped the St. Benilde-La Salle Green Hills Greenies, 74-73, before a huge crowd at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan Monday to move within a victory of clinching the NCAA juniors title.
Daryl Nazareno knocked in the marginal point—a free throw with 8.1 seconds remain ing—and then center Antonio Bonsubre broke up the Greenies’ final play as San Beda pulled through despite trailing for most of the second and third periods.
“We know that they have the stronger lineup, but we showed our character as defending champions,” said San Beda coach Britt Reroma. “We definitely want to end this on Thursday.”
The Red Cubs can clinch their third straight title—and a record 19th overall—with a win at 2 p.m. Thursday. The deciding game, if necessary, is scheduled on Monday.
Francis Abarcar shot 21 points, while former Under-16 standout Arvin Tolentino drilled in 19 points and collected 12 rebounds for the Red Cubs, who prevailed despite dishing out a season-low six assists.
Nazareno finished with 16 points, despite going 1 for 7 from beyond the arc.
Buoyed by their 88-85 win in Game 1 that also snapped the Red Cubs’ 18-game winning streak, the Greenies again put San Beda on the ropes for long stretches.
With Jon Villaruz on the firing end, the Greenies posted the game’s biggest lead at 45-35 with 8:36 left in the third period.
But the Red Cubs quickly turned the game around behind the trio of Arvin Tolentino, Nazareno and Francis Abarcar, who gave the lead back to San Beda, 55-54.
In a nip-and-tuck fourth period where no team led by more than five points, the trio again struck to preserve the win.
Tolentino tied the game at 71 with a strong drive, before Abarcar hit a layup for a 73-71 advantage with 52 ticks left to play.
The Greenies responded with a layup from Villaruz and looked in a good position to pull off another upset when Victor Ramilo won a jumpball against Van Abatayo on the next play.
But Villaruz and Thomas Torres turned the ball over with 23 seconds left, dooming the Greenies, who had risen from the No. 3 spot in the elimination round to reach the finals.
SAN BEDA 74—Abarcar 21, Tolentino 19, Nazareno 16, Abatayo 8, Tongco 6, Bonsubre 4, Patenio 0, Munsayac 0, Miranda 0, Macapayag 0, Dela Costa 0, Babilonia 0.
ST. BENILDE 73—Villaruz 20, Bonlleon 13, Torres 10, Barrera 8, Paras 8, Ramilo 4, Marcial 4, Yap 2, Vito 2, Sta. Clara 0, Laigo 0.
Quarters: 18-19, 33-38, 61-58, 74-73