Crippled Red Lions hold off Chiefs; Cubs prevail
Third stringers thwart ArellanoBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
UNDERMANNED yet never lacking in belief, San Beda overcame the first test to its title defense in the 88th NCAA basketball tournament.
Given little chance with only six players in their suspension-crippled lineup, the Red Lions pulled off an improbable 81-71 victory over the Arellano Chiefs yesterday before a raucous crowd at Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
Third stringers Yvan Ludovice, Art Dela Cruz, Jon Villaruz, Francis Abarcar, Dave Moralde and Antonio Bonsubre rose to the challenge as the Lions rallied from an early deficit before showing steely resolve when the Chiefs mounted a late run.
The Lions neophytes took the Chiefs out of their rhythm with their zone defense in the second half and played with ferocity, hustling for loose balls and offensive rebounds that left Arellano undone.
“It (the win) was all about heart,” said San Beda coach Ronnie Magsanoc, who was teary-eyed as he made his way to the media room.
“It was exhausting for them (Lions), but extremely rewarding. They seized the opportunity and they were rewarded.”
Abarcar, who made the roster only at the last minute, left his stamp on the game with a string of clutch baskets that kept the Chiefs at bay. He finished with 16 points in 37 minutes.
Ludovice had 18 points, including three crucial free throws down the stretch, while Art dela Cruz also finished with 18, including a layup that stretched the lead, 70-63, with 3:20 remaining.
As the final buzzer sounded, the six players, fighting tears of joy, circled around near the Lions’ bench, showered with cheers by an ecstatic San Beda gallery.
“I thought about the people who have been believing in us,” said Ludovice, who played the entire game.
San Beda missed nine players due to suspension stemming from the brawl that happened on the sidelines of a women’s volleyball match last season. Eight players were given one-game suspensions for their role in the melee, while center Ola Adeogun was slapped with a four-game ban.
For a while, the Lions’ lack of manpower hounded them as the Chiefs found their groove from beyond the arc in the first half, where they drained 10 triples.
But with Dela Cruz forcing the action inside the paint and Abarcar and Villaruz hitting their shots from beyond the arc, the Lions turned the game around in the third period.
The Lions led by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter and although Bonsubre fouled out with seven minutes remaining, the Chiefs never got closer than five as back-to-back jumpers from Abarcar pushed the lead, 75-68.
“They just kept on fighting,” said Magsanoc. “They made it happen.”
Earlier, San Beda crushed Arellano, 104-70, in juniors’ play. Arvin Tolentino, Alejandro Inigo and Joshua Caracut combined for 49 points as the Red Cubs opened their title-retention bid in style. San Sebastian held off Letran, 87-85, in the other juniors match.
First Game (Jrs)
SAN BEDA 104—Tolentino 18, Inigo 16, Mocon 15, Caracut 15, Abuda 9, Macapayag 7, Diputado 6, Furaque 5, Tongco 5, Gumtang 4, Abude 4, De Villeres 0, Brojan 0, Abatayo 0.
ARELLANO 70—Diosa 13, Fortune 11, Garcia 8, David 8, Taywan 6, Capara 6, Barte 4, de Guzman 4, Bernardo 4, Lising 2, Basibas 2, Alcantara 2, Cabahug 0, Balajadia 0.
Quarters: 32-14, 58-31, 84-54, 104-70
Second Game (Srs)
SAN BEDA 81—Ludovice 18, Dela Cruz 18, Villaruz 17, Abarcar 16, Moralde 12, Bonsubre 0.
ARELLANO 71—Pinto 16, Acidre 16, Hernandez 15, Malanday 14, Bangga 4, Salcedo 4, Zulueta 2, Valera 0, Lunas 0, Cadavis 0, Espiras 0.
Quarters: 21-28, 42-44, 63-54, 81-71