MANILA, Philippines – San Beda drew strength from a huge run connecting the third and fourth quarters as it turned back Emilio Aguinaldo, 92-69, to remain atop the heap and move a step closer to the Final Four in the 88th NCAA basketball tournament Saturday at The Arena in San Juan City.
Up by just three, 56-53, midway in the third period, the Lions tightened up the defensive screws and went on a 23-2 tear to stretch that lead to 79-55, early in the third quarter that proved enough to put the game away.
Jake Pascual came through with six points in that crucial stretch and finished with 19 points he topped with a game-high 12 rebounds as the Lions nailed their fifth straight win and 12th overall against two losses.
The win gave San Beda at least a playoff for a Final Four berth while keeping its campaign of finishing the elimination round in the top two where it will gain a twice-to-beat advantage there.
"It was our defense," said San Beda coach Ronnie Magsanoc.
It also helped San Beda that EAC's Cameroonian center Noube Happi was assessed his third foul just when the Generals had closed the gap.
When the 6-7 Happi, who is a cinch to win a place in the First Mythical Team, sat down due to foul trouble, the Lions pounced on it and launched a massive attack that ripped the Generals apart.
EAC clawed its way back relying mostly on its hot-shooting from beyond the arc where it buried nine of its first 12 three-point.
On two free throws by Remy Morada, the Generals trimmed their deficit to 53-56 but just lost their three-point ammos and went two-of-16 after it, allowing the Lions to fashion out an emphatic triumph.
San Beda thus swept EAC this season after its 81-65 win in the first round last July 19.
The Generals fell to their ninth loss against five wins.
Rome dela Rosa, Art Dela Cruz and Nigerian Ola Adeogun provided the needed help and ended up with 17, 15 and 11 points, respectively.
In juniors' action, San Sebastian smashed Letran, 75-51, to remain at the helm with a 14-1 record, barely ahead of second-running San Beda, which hammered EAC, 111-51, to improve to 13-1.
In the nightcap, Letran drew strength from other sources when lead scorer Kevin Alas came out on foul woes as it repeated over San Sebastian, 82-67, to supplant idle Jose Rizal (8-6) at fourth place with a 9-6 record.
Alas wound up with a team-high 23 points to hike his total to 88 points in their last three games but it was the troika of Kevin Racal, Mark Cruz and Jam Cortes who came through when the former sat out for a long strength due to foul trouble.
Racal, Cruz and Cortes ended up with a combined output of 42 points.
The Stags, who were led by Calvin Abueva's 27 points and 18 boards, fell to their fourth setback against 11 wins to remain at No. 2.
First Game (Srs)
San Beda 92- J. Pascual 19, Dela Rosa 17, Dela Cruz 15, Adeogun 11, Amer 7, Koga 6, K. Pascual 6, Lim 6, Caram 3, Ludovice 2, Villaruz 0, Bonsubre 0, Abarcar 0
EAC 69- Jamon 14, Paguia 13, Monteclaro 12, King 12, Happi 8, Munsayac 5, Tayongtong 2, Morada 2, Pillas 1, Mallari 0, Lumahan 0, Yaya 0, Chiong 0
Quarterscores: 32-20; 56-46; 73-55; 92-69
Second Game (Srs)
Letran 82- Ke. Alas 23, Racal 18, Cruz 14, Cortes 10, Almazan 7, Lituania 6, Belorio 2, Kr. Alas 2, Luib 0, Gabriel 0
San Sebastian 67- Abueva 27, Sangalang 15, Miranda 9, Pascual 6, Gusi 4, Dela Cruz 3, Juico 2, Antipuesto 1, Rebullos 0, Binuya 0
Quarterscores: 17-19; 34-35; 59-57; 82-67