Lions roar, hold off Knights to tie series
WITH THEIR backs against the wall, the San Beda Red Lions rediscovered their defensive identity just in time to keep their bid for a sixth straight NCAA title alive.
The Lions held the Letran Knights to a single field goal in the last six minutes to pull off a pulsating 68-61 victory Tuesday night that forged a winner-take-all clash for the NCAA Season 91 crown before a crowd of 17,588 at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Finding themselves in an unfamiliar scenario after losing a high-scoring Game 1, the Lions banked on a strong start, before playing with desire and desperation on the defensive end to frustrate the Knights who couldn’t get their offense going down the stretch.
On the cusp of ending a 10-year title drought and their chase for a 17th title, the Knights missed eight of 10 free throws with Rey Nambatac bungling all of his six attempts during a four-minute stretch.
“It was all a matter of scrambling for every possession,” said San Beda coach Jamike Jarin, whose team prevailed despite committing 32 turnovers.
Little time to rest
There will be little time for both teams to rest and recover as Game 3 is slated tomorrow also at MoA Arena.
Ola Adeogun finished with 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds while Jayvee Mocon sustained his late-season surge with 13 points, including the game’s final basket with eight seconds remaining.
Baser Amer had nine points and 11 rebounds, before leaving the game late due to cramps, while Art dela Cruz anchored the Lions’ strong start with 10 of his 12 points coming in the first half as San Beda roared to an early 13-point advantage, 28-15, midway in the second quarter.
The Knights took Game 1, 94-90, last Thursday thanks to their stellar outside shooting. But it was a totally different story yesterday as the Knights made just 24 field goals on 29 percent shooting and also endured a horrendous time at the foul line in the final period where they missed eight free throws.
The Lions, in contrast, made 27 of 48 shots.
“That’s the story there,” said Letran coach Aldin Ayo, referring to the shooting of both teams. “We lost but I’m very optimistic going into Game 3 because the effort was there.”
Arellano Braves stay alive
Meanwhile, the Arellano Braves spoiled the San Beda Cubs bid for a season sweep with a 72-68 win in Game 2 of the juniors finals.
But the Braves, under the format that gave San Beda a thrice to beat edge due to its sweep of the elimination round, still face a tall order of needing to prevail over the Red Cubs for two straight games for a first title.
ARELLANO 72—Abadeza 16, Dela Torre 15, Bataller 9, Sunga 7, Calapine 7, Velasco 5, Tamayo 5, Dañas 4, Espiritu 2, Fornis 2.
SAN BEDA 68—Abu Hijle 16, Nelle 15, Bordeus 13, Velasquez 6, Nayve 4, Mahinay 4, Tagala 3, Lagumen 3, Etrata 2, Alfaro 2, Dela Rosa 0.
Quarters: 25-13, 41-35, 57-49, 72-68
SAN BEDA 68—Adeogun 14, Mocon 13, Dela Cruz 12, Amer 9, Sorela 7, Soberano 5, Sara 5, Tankoua 3, Koga 0, Cabanag 0, Presbitero 0, Tongco 0, Reyes 0.
LETRAN 61—Cruz 21, Sollano 10, Luib 10, Racal 9, Balanza 6, Calvo 5, Apreku 0, Nambatac 0, Balagasay 0, Quinto 0.
Quarters: 22-15, 33-30, 52-49, 68-61
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