San Beda opened its bid for a second straight title in grand fashion by downing former champion Hope Christian High School, 88-74, even as longtime rivals Chiang Kai Shek College and Xavier School made their presence felt in the opening of the Philippine Secondary Schools Basketball Championship (PSSBC) Jumbo Plastic Linoleum Cup on Saturday at the San Beda Gym in Manila.
It took almost three quarters for the reigning champions to find their offensive rhythm, but once they did the Red Cubs completely overpowered the Hope cagers midway through the payoff period on the way to the convincing win.
Prince Etrata and Germy Mahinay combined for 12 points in that crucial stretch as the Red Cubs succeeded in sending their message to their rivals in the tournament dubbed as “Battle of Champions."
Exploiting the absence of NCAA MVP Mike Enriquez, the CKSC Blue Dragons romped to a 77-56 win over the Mapua Red Robins while the Xavier Stallions leaned on a 33-point performance from Tyler Tio to nip NCAA runners-up Arellano Braves, 84-81.
Lyceum likewise got off to a good start by beating Manila Patriotic School, 77-68, in the tournament also sponsored by Dickies Underwear, Freego, Ironcon Builders, MEC Networks, Hapee Toothpaste, Blackwater Sports and Rain or Shine with Molten as official ball.
Etrata topscored for San Beda with 14 points while four other teammates added nine points or more that underscored the team’s deeper bench – not to mention firepower.
Mahinay and NCAA Finals MVP winner Evan Nelle chipped in 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The Blue Dragons practically put the game beyond recall after they padded their lead to more than 20 points as early in the third quarter – thanks to the hot shooting of Andre Oczon.
Oczon was at his best in the second period where he scattered 13 of his 20 points.
Ian Salazar rescued the Junior Pirates from the jaws of defeat with his clutch shooting from way beyond the arc, especially in the third period that saw them take a 53-50 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.