MANILA, Philippines -- San Beda University survived a foul-plagued game from big man Donald Tankoua to escape with a tight 79-76 win over Letran in Game 2 of the NCAA Season 95 finals, and the Red Lions have their reserve centers to thank for it.
Tankoua was saddled with three fouls early in the second quarter, and had to sit out a bulk of it. Head coach Boyet Fernandez tried his other foreign student-athlete, Arnaud Noah, before turning to Damie Cuntapay instead.
Cuntapay came through with 3 points in nine minutes, while playing serviceable defense against Letran's Larry Muyang. When Tankoua got his fourth foul in the second half, Fernandez called on Kenmark Cariño, who also responded with a solid effort. He had 7 points on 3-of-4 shooting, along with 3 rebounds in just under 18 minutes.
"They're the future of San Beda," Fernandez said of the pair. "If you look at it, that's the future of San Beda."
"They're the two big guys that will really stay in San Beda for the next two to three years, and I'm just happy that they're stepping up," he added.
"I just told them, ever since, your time will come. If that opportunity comes, step up."
With foreign student-athletes being disallowed to play starting 2020, it was a relief for Fernandez to see his local bigs respond when called to action. Neither have played much in Season 95 -- Cariño averaged just 7.1 minutes per game in the elimination round, and Cuntapay 4.9 minutes.
They showed no fear on the big stage, however, much to Tankoua's delight.
"I told them that I need them," the Cameroonian said of his younger teammates. "I really need them because they saw I was not able to play because of the fouls and everything."
"They're good players. As my last year, they will be the one to lead us next year. They have everything, they're perfect. So I was really thankful for them, to step up," he added.
Tankoua, who finished with 2 points and 3 rebounds in less than 12 minutes of playing time, is looking forward to finishing the job that his younger teammates started come Tuesday.
"I really needed them so that I can go back for the next game on Tuesday," he said. "Anyway, we won. So we're just gonna be back here on Tuesday."
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