MANILA – The defending champions San Beda Red Lions kept their top seed hopes alive at the expense of rival Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights on Friday.
The Red Lions banked on a strong fourth-quarter finish to escape with a win over the gritty Knights, 73-68, and stretch their winning streak to 15 in the NCAA Season 93 men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Down by 2 in the final stretch of the payoff period, the Red Lions uncorked an 11-2 run spearheaded by Robert Bolick to build a 72-65 separation with 55 seconds left on the clock.
Bolick paced the San Beda anew with his 13 markers to go along with six assists and a steal.
The Mendiola-based squad will close their elimination campaign against the undefeated Lyceum Pirates (16-0) and the only team that dealt their only loss in the season.
“Alam naman naming na hindi sila [Letran] magpapatalo. Pero kami rin. Matalo na sa lahat, huwag lang sa Letran,” said Bolick.
The two teams had a neck-and-neck battle in the fourth quarter with Donald Tankoua leading the charge for the Red Lions with a couple of baskets, including the lead-stealing basket midway of the final canto, 61-60.
Letran’s Jerrick Balanza answered with a completed and-one play for a two-point advantage against the second-seed San Beda, 63-61.
Clint Doliguez nailed a floater then Bolick followed with another basket to give the San Beda a 70-65 lead with two minutes left to play.
Rey Nambatac cut the deficit of the Knights to four after drilling two charities, 68-72, but time was not enough for comeback plays.
Knights dropped to 8-9 win-loss record and found themselves in a three-way tie at fourth spot of the standings with San Sebastian Stags and Arellano Chiefs.