MANILA, Philippines—Gio Vergara only had one basket in seven tries but it turned out to be the biggest shot of the game.
Vergara buried a go-ahead triple with only 19.4 seconds left as San Sebastian escaped University of the East, 89-87, in overtime Wednesday in the FilOil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup at the Arena in San Juan.
“It all boiled down to who wanted it more. We never gave up,” said SSC head coach Topex Robinson. “I wasn’t even calling the shots, they (my players) just don’t want to quit.”
“What we do in practice like we shot in the gym pa around 8 p.m. and it paid [off],” said the five-foot-six Vergara, who added six assists against one turnover in 28 minutes.
The Golden Stags, who are basically an entirely different team this year with the departure of their ‘Big Three’ of Calvin Abueva, Ian Sangalang and Ronald Pascual along with other key pieces, went toe-to-toe with the Red Warriors, a team expected to have a breakthrough year in the coming UAAP Season 76.
The game was slowly slipping away from San Sebastian when UE’s Charles Mammie powered his team to an 85-81 lead with just 1:32 left in the extra period.
CJ Perez, a prized recruit out of Pangasinan, completed a three-point play set up by a pretty shot fake on Jay-ar Sumido before Vergara nailed the game-winning trey.
The 19-year-old Perez, who has drawn comparisons to Abueva with his high motor and ability to play multiple positions, flirted with a triple-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists to go along with two steals and two blocks to offset his six turnovers.
“Sabi lang ni coach go hard lang ako palagi, nagawa ko naman pero kulang pa (Coach told me to go hard always, I did but it’s not enough),” said Perez.
Leo de Vera also came up big for the Stags with 20 points on five-of-six shooting from deep, including the game-tying trey that forced extra session with 24.3 seconds left in regulation.
The Fil-American de Vera, a matchup nightmare at the power forward spot with his quickness and ability to step out from deep, also had eight rebounds and six steals.
Flashy guard Roy Sumang topscored with 23 points on top of six rebounds, nine assists and three steals but missed a leaner that would’ve tied it at 87 with only 5.6 ticks left.
Mammie scored all of the Red Warriors’ points in overtime en route to 23 points to go along with 16 rebounds.
San Sebastian improved to 2-2 while UE slid to 1-2.