Lions win 14th straight behind Tankoua heroics
Donald Tankoua was at his best when San Beda fell in a bind, leading the Red Lions to a 75-62 victory over Perpetual Help on Thursday in Season 95 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The defending champion Lions unexpectedly found the Altas a tough nut to crack until Tankoua exploited the gaps inside that put them comfortably ahead.
But San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez lamented that the Lions, in this game, fell short of his expectations.
“It’s not really us who played today. I hope my players realize this,” Fernandez said. “I’ve been telling my boys to be humble, play their usual game. It’s difficult to win if your feet are not on the ground.”
Joining Tankoua in breaking the game open in the fourth after they trailed Perpetual at the half were fellow MVP contenders Calvin Oftana and James Canlas together with gunslinger AC Soberano and cat-quick guard Evan Nelle.
“We cannot win a championship with the way we played today. We must learn from this before we play Letran on Tuesday,” said Fernandez.
The unbeaten Lions registered their 14th consecutive win as they moved a victory away from a guaranteed twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four.
Mapua played without Noah Lugo and Paolo Hernandez but still managed to slip past Jose Rizal, 72-67, in the other match to rise to 7-6.
“I had to change my strategy and made some adjustments by putting up a zone,” said Fernandez. “I’m glad we were able to pull off those stops while making our shots on the other end.”
Absorbing their ninth setback in 12 games, the Altas are still in contention for a semifinal spot with still six games remaining.
The Cardinals will certainly need the services of Lugo and Hernandez in their succeeding games as they tackle the Lyceum Pirates and the Lions next week. The Heavy Bombers dropped to 4-9.