Kings of the NCAA
Far from perfect for most of the season, San Beda College saved its finest performances for the games that mattered most in NCAA Season 93 men’s basketball.
Turning the championship series into a showcase of their grit, poise and composure, the mighty Red Lions completed a sweep of erstwhile league-leading Lyceum with an emphatic 92-82 victory on Thursday night before a huge Smart Araneta Coliseum crowd.
Robert Bolick proved unstoppable down the stretch, Donald Tankoua was a force inside the paint all series long, and returning coach Boyet Fernandez seemed to press all the right buttons under pressure as the Lions came out victorious in one of their most challenging seasons since their dynasty started 12 years ago.
For the past four months, the Lions played in the shadows of the Pirates, the upstarts from Intramuros who blitzed their way to 18 straight wins en route to a historic finals appearance.
The Pirates did offer a stiff resistance in the finals, keeping the game close until the final minutes of the two games, but this was a stage that always brought the best out of the Lions, who went full throttle down the stretch.
It was San Beda’s 21st crown overall and 10th in 12 years.
“They (Lyceum) really made us earn it (this championship),” said Bolick, who had 18 points, five rebounds and six assists in the title-clincher.
“This is the finals and if we only we can have two champions, I would be glad to give it to them too.”
Coming out strong in the second half of the season after struggling with a knee injury, Tankoua was named finals Most Valuable Player after tallying 22 points and 18.5 rebounds in the two games.
The game was hanging in the balance heading into the final two minutes, but just like in Game 1, Bolick took charge with a lay-up and a big triple that sewed up the win, 89-82, with 50 seconds remaining, after Mike Nzeusseu put the Pirates within, 82-83, with a three point play.
“I always visualize that it will always be close games,” said Bolick. “I was comfortable making that three because I’ve been practicing hard for it.”
Davon Potts contributed 15 points anew with three triples, while Javee Mocon and AC Soberano had 14 and 11 points, respectively for the Lions, who outscored the Pirates, 27-16, in the final quarter.
Reigning MVP CJ Perez finished with 22 points, but he was held scoreless in the final period as the Pirates lacked the finishing kick that became a hallmark of their elimination round sweep.
“Well, again, this championship will not be a reality if not for my players,” said Fernandez.
“They deserve to win this championship, they worked hard for it, they sacrificed. We knew in the course of our season, people doubted us, but the circle of this team never doubted each other. At the end of the year, the important one is the championship.”
Earlier, Mapua sent the juniors championship series into a deciding Game 3 after whipping La Salle Green Hills, 91-81.
The winner-take-all clash is set on Tuesday at 1 p.m., also at the Big Dome.
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