ONCE is enough.
San Beda avoided a season sweep by St. Benilde as it waltzed to a 78-54 victory in their second-round encounter in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Facing an opponent that dealt them their first loss of the season, the Red Lions made sure to get even this time as they leaned on their old, dominant form to notch a 10th victory in 13 games.
The defending champions thus firmed up their lofty position atop the 10-team field, while dropping their victims to fifth spot with a 7-5 win-loss card.
For a while, though, the Blazers, who toppled the mighty Lions, 83-76, last July 28, haunted their opponents with a sizzling start, before the latter tightened their defensive screws to turn the game around.
“We started flat. The ghost of St. Benilde was there,” Lions coach Boyet Fernandez said. “But I told my boys we just have to trust the system.”
Ola Adeogun threw his weight around, tallying 28 points, 16 boards, and two blocks, while Baser Amer and Van Abatayo sparked the Lions’ third-quarter breakaway.
Eager to put up an encore performance, the Blazers zoomed to an early lead, scoring 12 of the game’s first 14 points.
But how fast they started the game was also how fast their lead disintegrated as the Lions, behind their league-best defense, limited the Blazers to just five points in the second quarter to turn the tables.
The Lions never looked back as they established a cushion that grew to 46-23 after back-to-back triples from Amer midway through the third quarter, completing a whopping 33-point turnaround.
It was a foregone conclusion from thereon as the Blazers failed to close the gap despite the efforts of Paolo Taha, Jonathan Grey, and Fons Saavedra.
SBC 78 – Adeogun 28, Amer 13, Koga 9, Abatayo 9, Dela Cruz 6, Sara 5, Mendoza 4, A. Semerad 2, Mocon 2, D. Semerad 0, Pascual 0
CSB 54 – Taha 12, Grey 10, Saavedra 9, Sinco 7, Bartolo 6, Romero 5, Nayve 3, Ongteco 2, Jonson 0, Pajarillaga 0, Altamirano 0
Quarterscores: 9-16, 26-21, 53-34, 78-54