SAN Beda survived a brave stand by University of Perpetual Help, hacking out a 77-75 victory on Wednesday at The Arena in San Juan to keep a firm grip of the leadership of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The Red Lions almost squandered a huge double-digit deficit no thanks to late fightback by the Altas, but held on by making the defensive stops down the stretch in a marquee matchup that lived up to its billing.
The defending champions thus notched a seventh win in eight games, while the Altas dropped to a 4-3 win-loss card, leaving them in a three-way tie for third spot with College of St. Benilde and Jose Rizal University.
The Lions, though, had to withstand a worthy challenge from the Altas, who rallied from a 17-point third-quarter deficit, behind their fearsome foursome to come to within a shot of pulling off a reversal.
“It was a tough game,” Lions coach Boyet Fernandez said. “We didn’t stick to the game plan, enabling them to make a run, but I salute my boys for making the stops in the end.”
Baser Amer, Anthony Semerad, and Art dela Cruz led the Lions in scoring, but they drew timely baskets from Jaypee Mendoza, who scored all his six points in the final frame that kept the Altas at bay.
Still, the Altas threatened to steal the game as they managed to cut the lead to just two points 75-77, on a Justine Alano putback off a Harold Arboleda missed triple with 26 seconds left.
Then, Ola Adeogun, who has been hobbled by foul trouble all-season long, fouled out anew, committing an offensive foul in the Lions’ next possession to allow the Altas to make one final offensive play to either force overtime or win the game right away.
But the Lions showed why they are the league’s best defensive team, putting up a solid stand in the Altas’ last offensive possession that saw Arboleda force a contested reverse layup and Joel Jolangcob miss a hurried potential game-winning three-pointer.
The thrilling finish seemed far from happening as the Lions built a 57-40 cushion in the third behind a back-breaking 18-2 salvo to start the quarter.
Juneric Baloria almost singlehandedly kept the Altas within striking distance, scoring 13 of team’s 18 points in the third. The high-scoring guard finished with a game-high 21 points even after going scoreless in the first period.
SBC 77 – Amer 17, A. Semerad 14, Dela Cruz 12, Adeogun 11, Sara 7, Mendoza 6, Pascual 4, Tongco 4, D. Semerad 2, Koga 0, Abude 0
UPHSD 75 – Baloria 21, Arboleda 17, Alano 16, Thompson 10, Dizon 4, Jolangcob 4, Dagangon 3, Bantayan 0, Gallardo 0, Pido 0
Quarterscores: 19-11, 39-38, 65-56, 77-75