SACRED Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu showed up the Mapua Red Robins, taking down the reigning NCAA champions, 81-75, to reach the finals of the SM NBTC League National High School Championship on Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The Magis Eagles earned a shot at an old nemesis in the multi-titled San Beda Red Cubs in the winner-take-all finals on Thursday at 4 p.m.
San Beda beat the UAAP champions Far Eastern University Baby Tamaraws, 93-89, in the other semis match-up.
Versatile forward Eroll Pastor played like a man amongst boys as he scored 17 points and hauled down a whopping 19 rebounds for the Magis Eagles. Andrew Velasco had 15 points while center Alex Visser held the fort down low with 10 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Sparkplug Jeremy Nacua came off the bench and punched in three triples on his way to 10 points.
After an up and down first half which saw the Cebu side zoom ahead, 17-8, then fall behind, 29-35, the Magis Eagles took control with nine straight points to start the second half – a two by Visser, a trey by Nacua, another deuce by Visser and a transition lay-up by Pastor – for a 47-39 lead.
Mapua pulled to within five but the Magis Eagles responded with eight straight points capped by triples from Nacua and Patrick Yu to put them up 57-47 heading to the last period.
The Red Robins desperately tried to rally but the wards of coach Francis Auquico kept on pushing back with Mantua nailing a triple to raise their lead to 72-59, 4:03 to go.
Mapua trimmed the deficit to seven after baskets by Will Gozum and Clint Escamis, but Ateneo de Cebu kept them at bay with crucial free throws in the game’s final moments.
A relieved Auquico expressed that he was happy to see his team execute their game plan which was to keep Mapua off from the left side of the floor, a tendency they took note of during their viewing sessions.
Jasper Salenga had 19 points and eight boards to pace Mapua while Carl Lacap added 13.
Sacred Heart School 81— Pastor 17, Velasco 15, Visser 12, Nacua 10, Mantua 9, Yu 5, Manaytay 3, Chua 3, Javelosa 3, Calumpang 2, Cutamora 2.
Mapua 75 — Salenga 19, Lacap 13, Junsay 10, Gozum 10, Garcia 8, Concepcion 8, Bonifacio 4, Escamis 2, Samudio 1, Enriquez 0, Ramos 0.
Quarterscores: 22-16; 38-39; 57-47; 81-75.