JUSTINE Baltazar led from the front as La Salle pulled off a gritty 82-80 victory over a hardfighting Lyceum squad on Thursday to book a spot in the 2019 Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup Finals.
The fourth-year center stood out as a tower of power with 22 points, 22 rebounds, two steals, and one block as the Green Archers secured a place in the finals against either Adamson or San Beda.
"Ang advantage namin is with Justine. We just trust him every time he gets the ball in the post," said coach Gian Nazario of his starting center.
Baltazar's freebies with 2:53 left broke the 78-all deadlock, before Ralph Cu's split made it a three-point affair, 81-78.
Lyceum's Reymar Caduyac scored off a steal to trim the deficit down to one in the last 56.5 seconds but was unable to secure the go-ahead bucket, leading to a split from the line from Encho Serrano.
The Pirates, who played without two key players, had one final chance to force overtime, but Jayson David muffed his jumper as time expired.
Serrano added 20 points, five boards, and three assists, as Jordan Bartlett got 12 points, three assists, and two rebounds for the Green Archers.
Enoch Valdez scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds whle Jeff Santos chipped in 15 to make up for the absence of Jaycee Marcelino (nasal contusion) and Mike Nzeusseu (jammed right index finger). with reports from Andrew Mencias
LA SALLE 82 - Baltazar 22, Serrano 20, Bartlett 12, Melecio 9, Caracut 7, Lojera 5, Cagulangan 2, Bates 2, David 2, Cu 1, Bonggay 0, Lim 0.
LYCEUM 80 - Valdez 15, Santos 15, David 13, Caduyac 10, Ibañez 9, Marcelino 8, Navarro 6, Baetiong, 2, Yong 2, Tansingco 0, Laurente 0.
Quarters: 29-27, 46-44, 66-64, 82-80.