MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) For the 12th season in a row, San Beda College is playing in the NCAA finals.
Thanks to superb performances from Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon, San Beda overpowered San Sebastian College, 76-71, in a do-or-die game on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena to secure the last finals berth in the NCAA Season 93 men's basketball tournament.
In the process, the Red Lions secured the last finals berth in the NCAA Season 93 men's basketball tournament, sealing a best-of-three showdown with unbeaten Lyceum of the Philippines University. The Pirates advanced to the finals outright after winning all 18 of their elimination round games.
Mocon submitted a dominant performance with 23 points, 22 rebounds, and five blocks; Bolick added 21 points, four rebounds, and four assists while knocking down five of his eight three-point attempts.
"I give credit to San Sebastian… they did a good job, and they had a good run this season," said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez after the game. "But if I give credit to Baste, I will give full credit to my players. They sacrificed a lot in preparation for this game."
The Red Lions were coming off a 19-day lay-off following a heartbreaking double overtime loss to Lyceum in their final game of the elimination round, while San Sebastian had momentum on its side after a pair of impressive wins over Colegio de San Juan de Letran and Jose Rizal University in the stepladder semifinals.
"We lost against Lyceum, and I know people have been doubting us," said Fernandez. "But the players believed in themselves. Sabi nila, 'Coach, we lost the game against LPU, but just give us your trust.' I gave them my trust."
The 19-day break seemed to have little impact on the Red Lions, who surged to a 13-2 advantage and led by as much as 18 points, 32-14, with 8:51 left in the second quarter after Bolick and AC Soberano knocked down back-to-back three-pointers.
It was in the third quarter that the Golden Stags began to claw their way back. With Michael Calisaan finally finding his mark from the field, San Sebastian steadily whittled down San Beda's advantage. They came to within four points twice, at 46-50 and again at 48-52.
Unfortunately for the Golden Stags, their inability to defend without fouling hampered their chances of making a comeback. Mocon, in particular, shot eight free throws and made five of them in the final three minutes of the third period to ensure that San Beda had a 57-51 lead entering the payoff frame.
San Sebastian refused to go down easily. Behind Jason David, they managed to trim the lead down to five points, 62-67, with still five minutes left to play.
That was when it all fell apart for the Golden Stags. Justine Mercado was called for an unsportsmanlike foul after hitting Donald Tankoua's face in a rebounding play with 4:34 left, and Ryan Costelo was called for an unsportsmanlike foul as well barely a minute later after he threw the ball off Mocon's face while trying to save possession.
In all, San Beda shot five free throws in less than a minute, and a Mocon lay-up with three minutes to go made it a 74-62 advantage for the Red Lions. The Golden Stags did not threaten again.
"We're happy, but we still have a job to do," said Fernandez after the game. "I know we were beaten by LPU fair and square, we lost those two games, but I still trust my players and I know they'll come up big for Friday's game."
San Beda shot poorly from the field, converting only 31.82% of their field goals. But they more than made up for it by getting to line early and often – the Red Lions shot a whopping 36 free throws, making 25 of them. Mocon by his lonesome converted 13 of his 18 charities.
Meanwhile, San Sebastian shot 38.75% from the field, but went to the line only six times, making three of them. They were also out-rebounded, 44-54, and could not take full advantage of San Beda's 20 turnovers in the game.
David led the Golden Stags with 16 points, 10 of which came in the final quarter. Costelo finished with 15 points, and Calisaan was limited to 10 points on five-of-16 shooting, though he also grabbed nine rebounds. Allyn Bulanadi disappointed for San Sebastian, as he scored only four points after missing eight of his 10 attempts.
San Beda moves on to face Lyceum, with Game 1 of the best-of-three finals set for Friday at the Araneta Coliseum.
SAN BEDA 76 - Mocon 23, Bolick 21, Tankoua 13, Soberano 9, Potts 6, Presbitero 4, Abuda 0, Cariño 0, Doliguez 0, Noah 0, Tongco 0.
SAN SEBASTIAN 71 - David 16, Costelo 15, Calisaan 10, Capobres 7, Calma 6, Gayosa 6, Bulanadi 4, Navarro 3, Ilagan 2, Mercado 2, Baetiong 0, Valdez 0.
Quarter scores: 26-11, 44-31, 57-51, 76-71.
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