CALVIN Abueva stepped up in the absence of Ronald Pascual and made history in the process as San Sebastian scored a huge 69-55 victory over San Beda on Monday night at the end of the elimination round of the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Proving why he is the best player in college basketball, Abueva delivered in the payoff period by either hitting threes or dishing to his teammates to lift the Stags to their 13th win in 18 games and a season sweep of the Lions.
Finishing with 23 points, 16, rebounds, and three assists, the league’s reigning MVP also became the first player in the country’s major cage leagues to lead a league in points, rebounds, and assists.
With his point total, Abueva finished the season with a 20.1-point average (just a fraction of a point ahead of Letran’s Kevin Alas), 16.4 boards, and 6.5 assists (also just one-tenth of a point ahead of San Beda’s Baser Amer).
The win secured for the Stags the second seed in the Final Four and the twice-to-beat advantage that comes with it.
The Lions nevertheless are assured of the top seed entering the semifinals with a 15-3 elimination-round record.
Although Amer finished with seven assists to threaten Abueva’s record, the sophomore playmaker was held to just four points in 20 minutes off the bench.
“Strategy namin is pilitin wag magkaroon ng kumpiyansa yung Amer, wag siya maka-distribute, at nagawa naman namin,” Stags interim coach Allan Trinidad said.
The Stags chances’ of completing a sweep of the two-time defending champions appeared bleak early on after Pascual was ejected after being slapped with a questionable disqualifying foul on San Beda’s Rome dela Rosa following a rebound play.
For a while, the Stags appeared to cope with his ejection as they managed to hold on to an eight-point halftime lead.
But soon after the Lions, led by Ola Adeogun, staged a third quarter comeback and cut the deficit to just two heading into the final frame.
The Stags, however, made the necessary stops and turned to Abueva in the payoff period as they were never threatened again by the reigning champions.
“Siya (Abueva) lang ang may lakas ng puso tumira sa amin kanina, so sumugal na kami. Kung hindi maka-shoot, recover sa depensa. Although malaking kawalan si Pascual, nakagawa kami ng adjustment. Our defense made it for us,” Trinidad said.
Meanwhile, Trinidad said the Stags, through athletic director Frank Gusi, have appealed to the management committee for the call on Pascual to be downgraded to an ordinary foul to avoid a possible suspension.
SSC (69) -- Abueva 23, Sangalang 19, Maiquez 13, Juico 6, Gusi 5, Dela Cruz 3, Rebollos 0, Vitug 0, Miranda 0, Antipuesto 0, Pascual 0
SBC (55) -- Dela Rosa 12, Lim 11, Caram 7, K. Pascual 6, J. Pascual 6, Adeogun 5, Dela Cruz 4, Amer 4, Mendoza 0, Ludovice 0, Koga 0
Quarterscores: 9-7, 30-22, 43-41, 69-55.