MANILA – Defending champion San Beda went to Baser Amer and Arthur dela Cruz during crunch time to beat Arellano U, 90-81, and secure solo lead in the 90th NCAA basketball tournament on Saturday.
Amer hit successive baskets when the Chiefs pulled within 3 points, and Dela Cruz hit 4 free throws that sealed the Lions’ fourth straight win.
Amer and Dela Cruz finished with 18 and 17 points, respectively, while Nigerian behemoth Ola Adeogun chipped in 13 before he got fouled out.
San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez praised both Amer and dela Cruz, but said it was defense that was key to their victory.
“Baser and Arthur made key shots down the stretch but credit it to our defense for this win,” said Fernandez.
After a sluggish start, the Lions pounded it in to turn things around in their favor.
San Beda seized a commanding 56-38 lead late in the third quarter after Anthony Semerad knocked in a booming triple, but Levi Hernandez and Giovanni Jalalon conspired in mounting a comeback to pull Arelleno within 3 points.
San Beda then shut down the Chiefs the rest of the way while leaning on Amer and Dela Cruz in scoring.
Despite falling to their first defeat in 3 outings, Fernandez praised Jerry Codinera and the Chiefs for playing strong.
“I got to give it to coach Jerry Codinera and Arellano, they showed they can compete,” said Fernandez.
Arellano U, which is seeking its first Final Four stint, was paced by Hernandez with 20 points, while Jalalon had another solid, all-around performance with 17 points, 6 assists and 4 steals.
San Beda 90 -- Amer 18, Dela Cruz 17, Adeogun 13, Koga 8, A. Semerad 8, Tongco 7, Pascual 6, Mocon 5, D. Semerad 4, Cabanag 2, Mendoza 2, Sara 0, Abude 0.
Arellano 81 -- Hernandez 20, Jalalon 17, Holts 9, Caperal 8, Pinto 6, Agovida 5, Nicholls 4, Enriquez 4, Salcedo 3, Ciriacruz 2, Cadavis 2, Bangga 1, Gumaru 0.
Quarterscores: 24-17, 47-35, 64-54, 90-81