San Beda clinches NCAA crown
MANILA, Philippines – The team that never seem to run out of heroes all season long found another one Wednesday.
And for David Semerad and the San Beda Red Lions, his explosion couldn’t have come at a better time.
Semerad was on the firing end while everyone else struggled as the Lions subdued the San Sebastian Stags, 57-55, to clinch the NCAA basketball crown for the second straight season before a boisterous crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The 6-foot-4 Filipino-Australian outscored the entire San Sebastian squad in the fourth period and finished with 15 points as the Lions completed a two-game sweep of the Stags to secure their fifth title in six years.
Garvo Lanete tied the game at 52 with six minutes left, before Semerad fired five straight points, including a bank shot off a Lanete assist with 53.6 seconds left that turned out to be the marginal basket.
Jovit Dela Cruz gave the Stags a lifeline with a baseline jumper with 37.6 seconds remaining, but the Lions produced one final defensive stand that forced an airball from Ronald Pascual’s potential go-ahead three-point shot with three seconds remaining.
Semerad’s heroics came after reserve guard Mar Villahermosa sparked a late blitz and powered the Lions to an emphatic 75-63 victory in Game 1 of the best-of-three title series.
“It was a team effort,” said San Beda coach Frankie Lim of the title run that put the Mendiola-based school level with Letran with the most titles in the league with 16 crowns.
“The bench players delivered. Last time it was Mar and this time it was David. When the team is down, you just have to save your brothers and that’s what happened today. This is just perfect.”
The Lions failed to duplicate their perfect season last year, finishing the season with 20 wins against two losses. But for Lim, winning the title is all that matters.
“This (title) is for the players. This is the prize for their hard work. This is for the San Beda community for supporting us all the way.”
San Beda’s build-up to the season was far from ideal with last year’s Most Valuable Player Sudan Daniel sidelined by a knee injury.
The 6-foot-7 American missed the entire season, but his absence hardly mattered as the Lions’ big men – Jake Pascual, Dave Marcelo, Kyle Pascual and Semerad – shone at different junctures of the season.
Marcelo left an indelible mark in his final NCAA game, pulling down 16 rebounds, including nine in the fourth quarter, while anchoring a rock-solid San Beda defense that held the Stags to just five points the entire fourth quarter.
The 6-foot-6 forward from Mindoro was later named Most Valuable Player of the finals.
Ronald Pascual, whose outside shooting has become the missing link in the Stags game in the postseason, made five triples in the first three quarters, the last giving San Sebastian a 45-40 lead.
The San Beda crowd, which again outnumbered San Sebastian for the second straight game, grew restless when the Stags extended the lead to eight on Anthony Del Rio’s floater with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
But the Lions closed out the period with an 8-2 burst, capped by Semerad’s layup, to set the stage for another down-the-wire finish.
San Beda fought against picks, forced tough shots and hustled for loose balls, stifling San Sebastian, which was left wanting in firepower at the most important time of the season.
Held scoreless for seven minutes, the Stags made just two field goals in 19 attempts in a nightmarish ending to a season they started with 15 straight wins.
Abueva broke a dry spell with a split, 53-55, before Lanete and Semerad, getting extended minutes because Jake Pascual was in foul trouble, joined forces for the crucial basket.
“It was tough but we stuck together,” said Marcelo.
Lim said his team came into the game with a mindset that this would be their last game of the season.
“I told them yesterday (Tuesday) that this was going to be our last practice of the year,” Lim said. “There was no tomorrow for us.”
SAN BEDA 57—D. Semerad 15, Caram 10, Villahermosa 8, Amer 7, Dela Rosa 5, K. Pascual 4, Marcelo 2, Lanete 2, A. Semerad 2, J. Pascual 2.
SAN SEBASTIAN 55—Pascual 15, Sangalang 13, Abeva 12, Miranda 5, Dela Cruz 4, Antipuesto 4, Del Rio 2, Vitug 0, Maiquez 0.
Quarters: 14-15, 27-32, 48-50, 57-55
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