SAN Beda survived its toughest test so far in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, fending off pesky Arellano, 90-81, on Saturday at The Arena in San Juan to solidify its lofty perch in the standings.
Baser Amer once again showed why he is one of the top closers in college basketball, conspiring with Ola Adeogun and the returning Art dela Cruz to bail out the Red Lions in the face of the Chiefs’ furious fightback.
The defending champions stretched their unbeaten streak to four games to regain the solo lead, while dealing their victims their first defeat in three games.
The Chiefs went down fighting, rallying to cut a huge 18-point third-quarter deficit to just a solitary point down the stretch behind a suffocating full-court press designed by new coach Jerry Codiñera.
“Siguro nag-relax kami ng second half…Nag-panic na kami nung humabol sila,” admitted Amer, who tallied 18 points, including six in the last three minutes of the game, on top of seven assists. “Kailangan yung mindset namin is look for the win lagi.”
Jiovani Jalalon stood at the forefront of the Chiefs’ defensive stand, coming up with a handful of steals the speedy guard turned into breakaway layups to finish with nine of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.
Levi Hernandez and the Dioncee Holts also delivered key baskets in the Chiefs’ run, with the former connecting from long range and the latter operating down low.
Adeogun’s absence bridging the third and fourth quarters due to foul trouble—for the second straight game—also factored in the Chiefs’ comeback. The Nigerian slotman, though, returned when it mattered most, scoring on several stabs that kept the Chiefs at bay.
After serving a one-game suspension, Dela Cruz made up for lost time, tallying 17 points, including four insurance free throws in the endgame of the high-scoring affair.
Hernandez wound up with a game-high 20 points, two coming from an in-your-face dunk over Dela Cruz in the second quarter that all went for naught.
SBC 90 – Amer 18, Dela Cruz 17, Adeogun 13, Koga 8, A. Semerad 8, Tongco 7, Pascual 6, Mocon 5, D. Semerad 4, Cabañag 2, Mendoza 2, Sara 0, Abude 0
AU 81 – Hernandez 20, Jalalon 17, Holts 9, Caperal 8, Pinto 6, Agovida 5, Nicholls 4, Enriquez 4, Salcedo 3, Ciriacruz 2, Cadavis 2, Bangga 1, Gumaru 0
Quarterscores: 24-17, 47-35, 64-54, 90-81