INQUIRER.NET

Here come the Lions

The magnitude of the occasion was more than enough to draw out a career game from San Beda star Javee Mocon.

With his team’s run of finals appearances on the line, Mocon pumped in 23 points and grabbed 22 rebounds as the Red Lions turned back the San Sebastian Stags, 76-71, Tuesday night at Mall of Asia Arena to forge a championship duel with Lyceum in NCAA Season 93 basketball tournament.

The Lions came out strong even after a 19-day break as Robert Bolick and Donald Tankoua also dished out solid games to keep San Beda’s bid alive for a 10th title in 12 seasons.

But it was Mocon’s workmanlike performance in the physical and bruising duel with the Stags that stood out in a game where the Lions led by as many as 18 points before holding off San Sebastian’s late surge.

“It’s a do-or-die game,” said Mocon, who had 14 points in the second half. “That was enough motivation for me.”

The Lions stormed out of the gates hard as Bolick fired nine of his 21 points and Tankoua scored seven of his 13 points in the opening period, where San Beda raced to a

15-point advantage.

Although the Stags came within four points in the fourth period thanks to Michael Calisaan and Jayson David, the Lions kept their poise with Mocon’s baskets finishing off San Sebastian, which only shot six free throws, 30 less than the total of San Beda.

“I just wanted to win and play against Lyceum again,” said Mocon.

Bolick also had a lot of motivation playing against San Sebastian, which has earned a reputation as a tough and physical team.

“I am inspired when I play against San Sebastian,” said Bolick. “They give everything. They don’t give up and that’s the beauty of San Sebastian. That’s how they play, and I love how they play. Who doesn’t get motivated when you play against a team like that? We have to appreciate that kind of team.”

For San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez, it was all about trusting his team again after the setback to Lyceum.

“I gave them my trust, and they gave me this day,” said Fernandez. “Again, 19 days off, it’s really tough. But I give credit to Baste (San Sebastian), I will give full credit to my players. They sacrificed a lot in preparation for this game. We lost against Lyceum and I know people have been doubting us. But the players believe in themselves.”

A date with the unbeaten Pirates awaits the Lions in Game 1 of the best-of-three finals this Friday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

San Beda lost both games against Lyceum in the elimination round including a 105-102 overtime loss on Oct. 19.

“We came out with a win today, and yes we’re happy, but we still have a job to do on Friday, which is against Lyceum,” said Fernandez.

“I know we were beaten by Lyceum fair and square, we lost those two games but I still trust my players and I know they’ll come up big for Friday’s game.”

Despite its championship tradition, the multititled Fernandez admitted his team will be going into the finals as the underdog.

“Lyceum is the best teamright now because they beat us twice. So we’re underdogs, but again, we’ll find a way to win. Allow us to enjoy tonight, and let’s see each other on Friday.”

Earlier, pint-sized guard Joel Cagulangan shot 29 points in 52 minutes on the floor as La Salle Green Hills outlasted San Beda, 110-108, in triple overtime to set up a championship tiff with Mapua in the juniors division.

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