HOPE CHRISTIAN High School ended a 20-year title drought when it defeated Xavier School, 62-55, on Thursday night in the 43rd Metro Manila Tiong Lian Basketball Championship at the Chiang Kai Shek gym in Manila.
Point guard Arjan Dela Cruz delivered 29 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, and four steals for Hope Christian, which captured its first title in the high school league since 1993.
Hope Christian also took advantage of an anemic shooting performance by Xavier in the first half before staving off a rally by the Golden Stallions in the second half to pull off the Game Three victory.
After averaging 32 points in the first two games of the series, blue-chip high school prospect Kyles Lao was contained by Hope Christian as he only had 18 points for Xavier on a 5-of-19 clip from the field.
“We have to contain Lao kaya chinallenge namin outside shooting at transition nila,” said Hope Christian coach Stevenson Tiu. “We changed the tempo of the game through our half-court defense.”
Hope Christian won Game One, 74-66, before Xavier forced a decider with an 80-74 victory.
“Buong community, masaya sa championship,” Tiu, whose team had come up short in two previous championship appearances.
The Golden Stallions only shot 5-of-35 from the field in the first half and trailed by a big margin, 18-34, entering the third period.
After trailing by as many as 18 points, Xavier mounted a comeback cutting Hope Christian’s lead to 51-55 with six minutes in the fourth period.
Dela Cruz, however, scored five of Hope Christian’s final seven points as Xavier was held to a single field goal in the end game.
Mark Nunez had 15 points, while John Apacible had seven points, 15 rebounds, and three blocks for Hope Christian.
Lao was named the MVP of the tournament.