Against a school it has faced twice in a championship duel, in a game where its title resolve was supposed to be tested, San Beda came out and turned its showdown with Lyceum into a showcase of superior—and untouchable—team effort.
Playing at full strength, the defending champions took all of the drama out of their well-advertised matchup with the Pirates with a runaway 85-62 victory on Thursday in the NCAA Season 95 men’s basketball tournament.
Donald Tankoua and James Canlas were right on target from the get-go, helping the Lions in set up the carnage on their way to sweeping the 18-game challenge in the elimination round.
Top MVP contender Calvin Oftana also sizzled midway in the second quarter as San Beda visibly exploited Lyceum’s doughnut-hole defense brought by the absence of brawny center Mike Nzeusseu.
The Lions built a double-digit advantage there and were never really threatened the rest of the way.
“We have so much respect for Lyceum that we could not afford to relax,” said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez, seeking a fourth consecutive championship title for the Lions. “It feels great to be back in the finals.”
With an unblemished record, San Beda will advance to the finals outright where the Lions await the survivor of the stepladder semifinals beginning next week with No. 3 seed Letran facing either San Sebastian or Mapua in a sudden-death encounter.
The winner in that semifinal confrontation faces the Pirates, who wound up as the No. 2 squad with their 13-5 record. The two squads will then duel for the right to face the Lions.
Losing the 6-foot-7 Nzeusseu stung mightily for Lyceum, the one player the Pirates could not afford to lose especially opposite the Lions.
Nzeusseu, who hurt his foot against the San Sebastian Stags, rode the bench the entire game, leaving Jaycee Marcelino, Jerwin Guinto, Reymar Caduyac and Jeffrey Santos to carry much of the offensive load.
Tankoua frolicked inside with 26 points on 10 of 15 shooting and eight rebounds with no Nzeusseu putting a body on him in the paint.
Taking it easy at the onset, the Letran Knights had to wipe out a huge deficit before brushing off the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals, 87-79, in the other game.
Larry Muyang was too big, too strong for the Generals, delivering most of his 20 points around the rim apart from pulling down majority of his 11 boards during the latter half when the Knights finally buckled down to work.
Jerrick Balanza and Bonbon Batiller likewise did not let the game slip away by taking it aggressively to the hoop and putting the Knights (12-6) in complete control middle of the final period after climbing from 19 points down.