MANILA, Philippines - UAAP Jrs. champion Far Eastern University-Diliman and NCAA titlist San Beda College needed clutch plays from their top guns to turn back their respective rivals at the start of the first Philippine Secondary Schools Basketball Championship (PSSBC) at The Arena in San Juan over the weekend.
MVP Jerie Pingoy scored 22 points as the Baby Tamaraws repulsed the Chiang Kai Shek College Dragons, 81-77, in overtime.
The 5-foot-8 Pingoy knocked in two crucial jumpers in the extra period to help carry the Baby Tams past the Metro Manila Tiong Lian Basketball Association (MMTLBA) champions.
Billed as the next Johnny Abarrientos of FEU, Pingoy also set the plays for his teammates, including Roger and JJ Domingo who chipped in 12 points each.
The Dragons, led by Joshua Tan and Al Salim, had two chances to steal the win in regulation but blew them both as the Baby Tams toughned up on defense.
San Beda also found the going tough against Hope Christian High School, another team from MMTLBA, as it came from behind to post a 95-91 victory in the other game.
University of Santo Tomas and San Sebastian College also struggled before hurdling their respective rivals.
Former Philippine U-18 standout Arvie Tolentino imposed his will inside as the Red Cubs, with a record 20 NCAA titles, turned back the Hope Christian side, which led majority of the way.
The HCHS cagers led, 65-58, early in the fourth period but made poor shot selections, enabling the Red Cubs to strike back and snatch the win in the tournament backed by Ironcon Builders, Jumbo Plastic Linoleum, Wrangler, Dickies Underwear, MEC Networks, Blackwater Sports, Hapee Toothpaste and Welcoat.
UST, on the other hand, downed last year's UAAP champion National University, 72-63, while SSC also posted a 108-98 overtime win over multi-titled MMTLBA champion Xavier School.
Though CKSC, Hope and Xavier lost, league vice chairman Dioceldo Sy, who played for Uno High School during his Tiong Lian days, was happy with their performance.
"The Tiong Lian teams are fast catching up with UAAP and NCAA teams, sooner or later, they would be able to beat them," said Sy, who thanked Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive director Sonny Barrios and The STAR columnist Quinito Henson for gracing the affair.
Meantime, the FEU-CKSC game will be aired on Basketball TV (Channel 34) on Wednesday at 11 p.m. through the sponsorship of Davies Paints and Bon Chon Chicken.