SWU escapes finals-bound UST in OT behind Mbala’s 41 pointsBy Celest R. Flores
MANILA, Philippines — Cebu’s Southwestern University finally picked up a victory in the Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL) final four, escaping finals-bound University of Santo Tomas 93-91 in overtime Sunday at the Arena in San Juan.
Cameroonian Ben Mbala was unstoppable in unleashing 41 big points for the Cobras, who have held their own against the Manila-based squads in the round robin semis but couldn’t secure the wins until Sunday.
The Cesafi champions are a threat largely because of the 17-year-old Mbala, who was already huffing-and-puffing by halftime but still set a PCCL record in points along with 16 rebounds and four blocks.
SWU, though, needed extra five minutes to barely and a clutch points from beyond the arch and the stripe to get past UST — which did not have center Karim Abdul and versatile wingman Kevin Ferrer.
Despite Mbala scoring nearly half of their output, it was a triple from a waxing hot Monbert Arong that salvaged the Cobras and gave them their final advantage with 29.7 seconds in overtime.
Arong, who has always been reliable from downtown, finished with 17 points built around five treys, while Bon Guillena and Bernie Bregondo chipped in 11 points apiece.
The Cobras can salvage at least third place on Tuesday against the loser of the San Beda-Ateneo clash, which is being played at posting time.
The Growling Tigers, meanwhile, are already secured of their first-ever PCCL finals berth after bagging two victories over the Red Lions and the Blue Eagles — but they still played toe-to-toe against SWU.
They even had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation and overtime, but just failed to execute on the plays. In the end, the Tigers just opted to go for a trey, which Jeric Fortuna and Aljon Mariano ultimately missed, instead of a two-pointer to send the game into another overtime.
Trusty gunner Jeric Teng paced UST anew with 20 markers but did not have enough lift to make a crucial fastbreak lay-in, which could’ve put the Tigers ahead by two in overtime — but instead, the Cobras got the leather and Arong made game-changing triple.