UAAP champion Far Eastern University-Diliman and NCAA titlist San Beda needed clutch plays from their top guns in the stretch to dodge bullets at the start of the inaugural Philippine Secondary Schools Basketball Championship (PSSBC) at The Arena in San Juan over the weekend.
With little knowledge about their rivals’ strength, the Baby Tamaraws were forced to play extra five minutes before turning back the Chiang Kai Shek College Dragons, 81-77, behind the MVP-like performance of Jerie Pingoy.
The 5-foot-8 Pingoy, who is likely to suit up for the Tamaraws next season, struck hardest in overtime as he produced a couple of tough jumpers that took the fight out of the Metro Manila Tiong Lian Basketball Association (MMTLBA) champions.
Trumpeted as FEU's next Johnny Abarrientos, Pingoy sizzled for 22 points, aside from helping set up plays for Roger and JJ Domingo who chipped in 12 markers each.
The Dragons, led by Joshua Tan and Al Salim, blew two chances to steal the win in regulation sa FEU’s defense held firm.
Like the Baby Tamaraws, the Red Cubs also teetered on the brink of defeat but were rescued by former Philippine U-18 standout Arvie Tolentino who imposed his will inside to complete the team’s 95-91 come-from-behind win over MMTLBA power Hope Christian High School.
It was a bitter loss for Hope Christian which led 65-58 early in the payoff period but was undone by poor shot selection, allowing the Red Cubs to escape with the win in the tournament backed by Ironcon Builders, Jumbo Plastic Linoleum, Wrangler, Dickies Underwear, MEC Networks, Blackwater Sports, Hapee Toothpaste, and Welcoat.
University of Santo Tomas, on the other hand, created a mild stir by downing deposed UAAP champion National University, 72-63, while the San Sebastian Staglets capped a tense-filled day with a 108-98 overtime win over multi-titled MMTLBA team Xavier School.
Though CKSC, Hope Christian, and Xavier lost, league vice chairman Dioceldo Sy, who played for Uno High School during his Tiong Lian days, was happy with the three teams' performance, saying they succeeded in sending their message to both UAAP and NCAA teams.
“Tiong Lian teams are fast catching up with UAAP and NCAA teams, sooner baka tatalunin na sila,” said Sy.