WITH the game on the line, it’s no surprise who San Beda turned to.
Art dela Cruz and Rome dela Rosa again came to the Red Lions’ rescue, delivering the key baskets to lift the three-time defending champions to a pulsating 76-72 overtime victory over Letran in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament before a jampacked crowd at The Arena in San Juan.
Dela Rosa converted the game-tying free throws before Dela Cruz buried the marginal floater to complete the Lions’ fightback from a late fourth-quarter deficit en route to a 14th victory in 17 games.
The Lions also supplanted their archrivals for the top spot, with their victims dropping to a 14-4 win-loss card overall.
“It’s all about pride,” said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez, whose team avenged its 67-74 defeat to the Knights in the first round. Both teams already secured each of the two twice-to-beat advantages in the Final Four.
San Beda can lock the top spot with a win over Arellano in its final game of the eliminations, while a loss will force a playoff game against the Knights.
Ola Adeogun registered monster numbers of 26 points, 26 boards, and two blocks as he also kept the Lions afloat, while seldom-used guard Roldan Sara also provided quality minutes when heavily-used guards Baser Amer, Yvan Ludovice, and Francis Abarcar struggled early on.
Mark Cruz topscored for Letran with 25 points, while Raymond Almazan added 13 points and eight boards, but missed a potential game-winning charity in regulation.
The Lions trailed, 36-46, with less than a minute gone by in the fourth quarter, before turning to Adeogun and Sara, who combined for 17 points in the payoff period to lead the comeback.
Cruz gave the Knights their last taste of the lead after his jumper made it 72-70 with 1:38 to go, setting the stage for the heroics of Dela Rosa and Dela Cruz.
“I’ll do whatever it takes for us to win,” said Dela Rosa, who also scored a crucial layup that gave the Lions a 70-68 lead with 2:31 left.
San Beda (76) -- Adeogun 26, Dela Rosa 13, Amer 12, Dela Cruz 8, Sara 7, Koga 4, D. Semerad 4, Abarcar 2, Mendoza 0, Bonsubre 0, Pascual 0, Ludovice 0.
Letran (72) -- Cruz 25, Almazan 13, Racal 11, Tambeling 10, Belorio 9, Ruaya 2, Gabawan 2, Castro 0, Po 0, Luib 0, Nambatac 0, Buenaflor 0, Publico 0.
Quarterscores: 14-9; 28-19; 36-43; 64-64 (OT), 76-72.