IT'S not how you start, but how you finish.
Baser Amer proved that point as he powered San Beda to an 82-75 win over Arellano on Thursday that enabled the Lions to clinch a Final Four berth in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at the Arena in San Juan.
Struggling in the first three quarters, the sophomore playmaker from Davao suddenly came alive in the final frame, firing 11 of his 13 points to propel the Lions to their seventh straight win and 13th in 15 games overall.
“Baser will always find ways to help the team,” Lions coach Ronnie Magsanoc said of his prized ward, who added six assists and six rebounds.
Skipper Jake Pascual also delivered with a double-double of 16 points and 11 boards, while Rome dela Rosa chipped in 13 markers for the two-time defending champions, who also dealt the Chiefs their 10th loss in 15 games, dashing their semifinal hopes.
Before they could seal their seventh straight postseason appearance, however, the Lions had to watch Chiefs rookie James Forrester torch the net on his way to a career high.
The Filipino-Canadian small forward buried seven triples to finish with 28 points, including 10 in the third, where the Chiefs outscored the Lions, 22-11 and momentarily gained the advantage.
Trailing by four entering the fourth, the Lions scored 10 unanswered points to regain the lead.
Still refusing to budge, the Chiefs again tied the count at 75 following a Levi Hernandez triple with two minutes and 42 seconds left, before an Amer trey started a 7-0 Lions’ run that finished off their opponents.
“We know they were going to come out tremendously,” Magsanoc said of the Chiefs, who lost an embarrassing 71-81 decision to a six-man Lions squad in the first round. “But it was all about composure. The boys made the stops when they needed to.”
SBC (82) – J. Pascual 16, Amer 13, Dela Rosa 13, Dela Cruz 10, Adeogun 8, K. Pascual 7, Koga 6, Villaruz 4, Ludovice 3, Caram 2, Lim 0
AU (75) – Forrester 28, Hernandez 11, Bangga 10, Pinto 8, Acidre 8, Caperal 6, Salcedo 2, Zulueta 2, Lunas 0, Cadavis 0
Quarterscores: 22-14, 46-39, 57-61, 82-75