HOPE Christian High School and San Sebastian pulled off dramatic victories over fancied rivals on Friday to forge a title showdown in the 1st Philippine Secondary Schools Basketball Championship (PSSBC) at the Chiang Kai Shek College gym in Manila.
Jollo Go buried three triples and converted all his five free throws at crunch time as Hope Christian hacked out a 67-60 victory over the Letran Squires.
Go’s three successive treys helped Hope Christian turn a three-point deficit into a 54-46 lead.
The Staglets, on the other hand, leaned on the gutsy plays of starting guard Ryan Costelo to get back at NCAA tormentor San Beda College, 75-71, in the other semifinal.
The Red Cubs appeared headed for another breeze similar to their recent title showdown with the Stags when they took a 63-53 lead.
But Costelo, Alfren Gayosa and Rhanzel Yong rallied the Staglets to victory in the tournament sponsored by Ironcon Builders, MEC Networks, Jumbo Plastic Linoleum, Wrangler, Welcoat House Paints, Hapee Toothpaste, Dickies Underwear and Blackwater Sports.
“Ipinaalala ko lamang sa mga bata na lagi kaming dapat na mangarap. Sila (San Beda) galing sa championship at maaaring pababa na pero kami dapat patuloy na mangarap. Kaya naman naroroon ang puso ng players at hindi sumuko,” said Staglets coach Raymond Valenzona.
Yong scored 21 points, hitting all attempts from the two-point area, and also had 10 boards. Costelo added 16 points, while Lorenzo Navarro and Michael Calisaan had 10 apiece.
Hope Christian and San Sebastian dispute the title Monday at 2:30 pm after the battle for third between San Beda and Letran at The Arena in San Juan City.
The one-game face-off for the title will be aired on Basketball TV through the sponsorship of BonChon Chicken and Davies Paints.
Go, inspired by the presence of the school’s top backer in Dr. Cecilio Pedro of Hapee Toothpaste, finished with 14 markers and three boards.
“I was really expecting Go to deliver because he is our shooter,” said head coach Stevenson Tiu. “We started out flat in the first half but I told the players to put more pressure on our defense and speed up the tempo since Letran uses limited number of players.”
Clint Dolinguez tallied 22 points and 10 boards, while John Apacible had 16 points and 15 rebounds in 37 minutes. Hope Christian outscored the Squires in the final canto, 26-16.
“Our goal in joining the tournament was to gain experience and being in the finals is a bonus. We thank God for this,” stressed Tiu.
It was a disappointing performance for the Squires, who led by as many as 11 points in the first half but lost steam in the last period.