Giant-killer Xavier School brings down NU Bullpups to reach PSSBC final vs San Beda
Joshua Caracut bailed out San Beda in the face of an FEU rally. Jerome Ascano

XAVIER School sustained its giant-killing run by downing reigning UAAP champion National University, 79-75, to arrange a title showdown with NCAA champion San Beda in the 3rd Philippine Secondary Schools Basketball Championship (PSSBC) Ironcon Builders Cup.

With Tyler Tio, Kyle Ong and Ralph Cu combining for four three-pointers in a dizzying 17-2 attack, the Xavier Stallions rallied from a 62-52 deficit to grab the lead, 69-64 in the highly entertaining game at the Chiang Kai Shek College in Tondo, Manila.

NU managed to regain the lead, 71-69, on a 7-0 run, but Tio buried his second three-pointer of the quarter to finally take the fight out of the Bullpups.

In a fitting follow-up to his 28-point performance in the team’s 77-72 win over title favorite Chiang Kai Shek College last Saturday, Tio led the Stallions for the fourth time with 20 points.

He was ably supported by Ong and Cu who tallied 17 and 12 points, respectively.

The Red Cubs, on the other hand, leaned on the quintet of Niko Abatayo, Sam Abuhijleh, Norrish Decapia, Chami Diputado and Andrei Caracut to beat former UAAP champion Far Eastern University, 61-57, and secure a return ticket to the final – a one-game affair on Saturday also at the CKSC gym.

San Beda nearly squandered a 13-point advantage in the first half as FEU rallied to within 50-47 going into the final 10 minutes.

But Diputado and Caracut came to the team’s rescue, coming through with tough plays in a 9-3 attack to scuttle FEU’s comeback bid.

Abatayo led the Red Cubs with 14 points aside from tallying 15 boards and five assists.

Aside from Ironcon Builders, also backing the event are Rain or Shine, Hapee Toothpaste, Blackwater-Ever Bilena, Dickies Underwear, MEC Computers, Jumbo Plastic Linoleum, and Freego.

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