SAN Beda rolled to a 73-44 victory over Letran on Saturday to get back at its archrival and inch closer to formally clinching a Final Four berth in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The Red Lions flashed their vaunted defense, limiting their Knights to a point shy of tying the lowest output by a team this season and holding them to a dismal 20-percent (14-of-70) shooting from the field.
As a result, the defending champions notched their 12th win in 14 games to tighten their grip on the top spot of the 10-team standings.
The Lions also avenged their 53-64 loss in the first round in a game where Ola Adeogun was benched for missing practice for three days.
The Nigerian was back in harness, dominating down low with 14 points, 10 boards, and two assists in just 19 minutes, while Art de la Cruz registered 17 points, six rebounds, one assist, and one block to lead the Lions.
“I challenged my boys because we really didn’t want to lose this game,” Lions coach Boyet Fernandez said.
The Knights suffered their eighth loss in 14 games and are in danger of missing the semifinals after two straight runner-up finishes.
The Lions banked on a backbreaking run of 12 unanswered points bridging the first and second quarters to build a sizeable cushion, but it was a questionable offensive foul on the Knights’ Kevin Racal near halftime that completely turned the tide toward the Mendiola-based dribblers.
With the Knights trailing, 18-31, Racal had a chance to cut the deficit to 10 points after the do-it-all forward buried a left-corner triple with less than 30 seconds to go before intermission.
But officials blew their whistle on Racal after his foot hit defender JP Mendoza while he was on his way down from the attempt.
That infuriated Racal and Knights coach Caloy Garcia and got them whistled for a technical foul each that led to four converted charities by San Beda.
What could’ve been just a 10-point deficit grew to 17 points in a jiffy.
The Lions never looked back from there as they maintained a lead that ballooned to as many as 31 points.
The gap grew so wide the Lions could afford to bench—for the right reasons this time—Adeogun the entire fourth quarter.
The Lions nearly held the Knights to the lowest output by a team this season, but Letran rookie Bong Quinto buried a triple in the waning seconds that proved to be his team’s final count.
SBC 73 – Dela Cruz 17, Adeogun 14, Pascual 11, Koga 6, Amer 6, Mendoza 6, Abude 4, D. Semerad 4, A. Semerad 2, Tongco 2, Mocon 1, Cabanag 0, Sara 0, Abatayo 0, Sorela 0
CSJL 44 – Cruz 10, Racal 8, Publico 7, Ruaya 4, Tambeling 4, Apreku 3, Quinto 3, Gabawan 3, Nambatac 2, Calvo 0, Castro 0, Saldua 0, Luib 0, Dela Pena 0, Singontiko 0
Quarterscores: 17-8, 37-18, 55-34, 73-44