EXCITING games and the NCAA have always been synonymous with each other and the 93rd season of the oldest collegiate tournament in the country is no different.
While this season was dominated entirely by two teams in San Beda and Lyceum, fans of the NCAA were still treated with some breathtaking basketball action and SPIN.ph lists down seven of the best games in the tournament this year.
7) Letran eliminates Arellano sans Kent Salado on a Jeo Ambohot game-winning putback
With both teams’ season on the line, Letran and Arellano forged a classic duel that was only decided in the final play.
It was the returning Jeo Ambohot – a guy who missed nearly half of the tournament with a fractured wrist – who ended up as the hero as he scored the putback with 3.3 seconds to go as the Knights lived to fight another day.
What made the game more exciting was the fact that the Chiefs battled despite playing sans injured star Kent Salado.
Jerry Codinera found gems in Rence Alcoriza and Levi Dela Cruz who combined to score all 19 points for the Chiefs in the final quarter, engaging the Knights’ Rey Nambatac in a torrid shootout in the payoff period.
6) Lyceum survives Emilio Aguinaldo College in best ‘NCAA on Tour’ game
One of the innovations this season is the NCAA on Tour games that brought the matches close to the students with some schools hosting the games.
The best one came when Emilio Aguinaldo College hosted the unbeaten Lyceum near the end of the first round.
The Generals were given more motivation to win, dedicating the game to Hamadou Laminou after the EAC import suffered a torn ACL, and their inspired play on their home turf caught the then-unbeaten Pirates by surprise.
It didn’t help that that the usually mild-mannered Topex Robinson got ejected in the first half, leaving the Pirates to gut out a victory without their head coach.
The Generals – who got inspired performances from Francis Munsayac, Rustan Bugarin and Jerome Garcia – nearly did the unthinkable as they kept the game close up until the end.
But down by two with less than 10 ticks to go, Munsayac turned from hero to goat as he lost the ball from his hands which resulted to a JC Marcelino lay-up on the break to finish off the Generals’ gutsy stand.
5) Michael Calisaan caps career game with dagger triple as San Sebastian eliminates Letran
This list wouldn’t be complete without a mere mention of Michael Calisaan’s best game in his collegiate career.
Calisaan fired 36 points, including the dagger three-pointer with 18.3 seconds left to push San Sebastian to its first semifinals appearance in four years.
It was a nip-and-tuck affair with Calisaan basically carrying the fight for the Stags against the hot shooting of Knights duo Jeremiah Taladua and JP Calvo.
Veteran guard Ryan Costelo then joined the fun by scoring nine points down the stretch, including the go-ahead floater with 44 seconds to go to give the Stags a 71-69 lead.
He then helped break the Knights’ hearts as he ran a pick and pop play with Calisaan, who gladly obliged by draining the backbreaking three from the top of the arc to cap off his career night.
4) Kent Salado drains game winner as Arellano outlasts Jose Rizal University in overtime
Every time Arellano and Jose Rizal University face off on the court, exciting things happen and their first meeting of the year certainly lived up to expectations.
The Chiefs’ 73-72 win over the Heavy Bombers had all the makings of a classic as it ended with Salado draining the game winning basket with 0.2 seconds left to tow his squad to the win in extra time.
There were no shortages of drama in this game with Salado missing two free throws in regulation, resulting to a desperation three from Jed Mendoza to send the game into overtime.
Mendoza was at it again in the extension period, scoring six straight points to give the Heavy Bombers the lead with four seconds to go, but that only set the carpet for Salado’s game winner who scored over the outstretched arms of Abdoul Poutouchi to give the Chiefs the win.
3) Arellano repeats over Jose Rizal University, this time in double overtime
As if their first overtime thriller wasn’t enough, the two teams once again engaged in a thriller in the second round – this time needing five more minutes to settle a winner.
Teytey Teodoro nailed back-to-back threes in regulation to send the game into the first overtime while Zach Nichols returned the favor in the first extension as fans of both schools were left at the edge of their seats in the waning moments of the match.
With both teams losing key cogs to fouls in the second overtime, it was little known Kraniel Villoria and Archie Concepcion who shone for the Chiefs, making back-to-back threes in the end game to finally take the fight out of the Heavy Bombers for good.
2) Lyceum completes historic elims sweep in classic double overtime win over San Beda
In a tension filled match to close out the NCAA elimination round, Lyceum made history with an elims sweep in the most dramatic fashion after hacking out 107-105 win over San Beda in double overtime.
The two teams traded blows from the get-go with the most pulsating sequence happening in the first overtime.
CJ Perez just drained the go-ahead basket for the Pirates with four seconds left in the match but the referees called a foul on JC Marcelino with 1.5 seconds left in the match for bumping Robert Bolick who was still in the backcourt.
Fans however weren’t robbed of an excellent finish as Bolick split his free throws giving the two teams five more minutes to slug it out.
The end came with Mike Nzeusseu scoring an undergoal stab with about 10 ticks left, giving the match the proper finish it deserves.
1) Robert Bolick, San Beda exact revenge on Lyceum in the NCAA Finals
While this isn’t quite like their second round encounter, this game was just as tense and as dramatic considering what’s at stake.
Finally meeting for all the marbles, it was San Beda that came away with the victory after stealing one from Lyceum, 94-87, in Game One of the NCAA Finals.
The win meant so much for the Red Lions as it halted the Pirates’ momentum, allowing them to take their 21st title via a finals sweep a few days later.
It was during the finals opener, though, where Robert Bolick’s ‘legend’ in Mendiola was finally cemented.
With the game still in the balance with roughly 90 seconds to go, Bolick scored eight straight points including a breakaway lay-up to give San Beda a 91-82 lead.
Showing their grit and heart, the Pirates put together five straight points to try and make a game out of it but the Red Lions just had enough gas in the end to hold off Lyceum.