Lions repulse Knights in Game 1; Cubs winBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Guards Baser Amer and Ryusei Koga shone in the second half as San Beda nipped Letran, 62-60, Thursday night and moved within a victory of nailing a record 17th senior title in the 88th NCAA basketball tournament before a roaring crowd at Mall of Asia Arena.
Cunning and clever, Amer constantly found ways to break down Letran’s defense, while Koga came through with big shots as the Lions continued their mastery of the Knights, who lost Game 1 in their return to the finals for the first time in five years.
San Beda can clinch the title on Friday when the series moves to Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Putting up a tougher defensive stand in the second half, the defending champion San Beda Red Cubs earlier overwhelmed the San Sebastian Staglets, 69-51, and closed in on their 20th juniors crown.
Arvin Tolentino and Joshua Caracut combined for 37 points, but it was Javee Mocon who anchored the Red Cubs’ interior defense in the second half that helped limit San Sebastian to just 21 points in the last two quarters.
The 6-foot-2 Mocon also finished with 15 points on top of 17 rebounds in what coach Britt Reroma described as a “game-changing” performance.
Amer tallied 20 points, six rebounds and three assists in a solid all-around outing, but it was Koga’s three-pointer with 1:05 remaining that gave the Lions the cushion they needed to put the Knights under pressure to execute near the end.
Playing limited minutes for most of the season, Koga made the most out of his long exposure to lead a 13-2 blitz that turned a five-point deficit into a 47-41 lead.
Still, the Lions needed to come up with a defensive masterpiece in the final play to prevent the Knights from scoring in the dwindling seconds.
Up by two, the Lions forced Knights’ leading scorer Kevin Alas into a turnover with two seconds left to preserve the victory, which marked San Beda’s 15th straight against Letran since 2007.
“As expected it was very close,” said San Beda coach Ronnie Magsanoc. “Baser carried us in this game. We were not able to limit Kevin but he got tired in the second half.”
Alas finished with 18 points, but was held to only three in the second half, where Mark Cruz took up the cudgels with seven of his 11 markers. But the depth of the San Beda squad again worked wonders for the Lions, who drew 45 points from their bench, compared to just eight from the Knights.
San Beda’s Nigerian center, Ola Adeogun, was hounded by foul trouble for most of the game, but hit back-to-back baskets inside the paint that pushed the Lions’ lead to 59-57, before Koga hit the game’s biggest shot for 62-57.
SAN BEDA 69—Tolentino 20, Caracut 17, Mocon 15, Inigo 7, Abude, Abatayo 2, Gumtang 2, Macapayag 1, Diputado 0, Tongco 0, Furaque 0, Brujan 0, Devilleres 0, Romero 0.
SAN SEBASTIAN 51—Velasco 7, Escalambre 7, Navarro 7, Calisaan 6, Yong 6, Costelo 6, Gatdula 5, Gayosa 3, Magno 2, Masco 2, Santos 0, Malamug 0, Loor 0, Causon 0.
Quarters: 15-15, 32-30, 48-38, 69-51
SAN BEDA 62—Amer 20, Koga 9, Adeogun 8, J. Pascual 8, Dela Cruz 6, De la Rosa 4, Caram 3, Mendoza 2, Pascual 2, Melo 0.
LETRAN 60—K. Alas 18, Racal 14, Cruz 11, Almazan 8, Belorio 7, Cortes 2, Luib 0, Lituania 0, J. Alas 0, Gabawan 0.
Quarters: 18-12, 24-25, 47-41, 62-60