REIGNING NCAA champion San Beda arranged a battle with UAAP titlist De La Salle for the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup crown.
The Red Lions staved off a late rally by the Centro Escolar University Scorpions, 63-62, on Friday in a nail-biting semifinal match at The Arena in San Juan, to reach the finals of the preseason tournament for the third time.
Ola Adeogun had 16 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks, while Art Dela Cruz chipped in 15 points for the Red Lions, who played tough defense in the final 8.7 seconds to preserve the win.
In the game’s final possession, Adeogun and Dela Cruz put pressure on CEU point guard Carlos Casino, who lost his footing before taking a tough three-pointer as time expired.
“CEU just fought for everything. But eventually we made stops in the end,” said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez. “I told my players that defense will be a crucial factor. They made opportunity to score in the final minute but we made stops in the end.”
San Beda battles La Salle for the title on Sunday at 4 p.m. The Red Lions lost to the Green Archers in their only other finals match in 2007.
“We are playing a tough team. Like they said, it’s the battle of the champions. I hope we play like a champion,” said Fernandez.
San Beda won despite being outscored, 9-16, in the fourth quarter by CEU, which came into the semifinals with a perfect 7-0 slate.
Trailing 46-54 entering the fourth, CEU stormed back with a 12-4 run to tie the count at 58 with 5:34 left. Ryusei Koga answered with a 3-pointer for San Beda, 61-58, but Casino hit a lay-up for CEU.
Dela Cruz’ jumper made it 63-60 as Alfred Batino responded with a driving lay-up with 1:21 left. That turned out to be CEU’s last basket as Rod Ebondo missed two triples in the Scorpions’ next possessions.
CEU and Southwestern University battle for third place on Sunday at 2 p.m.
San Beda’s Ranbill Tongco will miss the finals game after being slapped with a disqualifying foul by the referees, who caught the rookie guard making a punch-like motion against Aaron Jeruta late in the third.
San Beda (63) – Adeogun 16, Dela Cruz 15, Amer 8, Pascual 6, Koga 6, Mendoza 6, A. Semerad 4, Cabanag 2, Ludovice 0, Tongco 0, Mocon 0, D. Semerad 0.
CEU (62) – De Leon 16, Batino 12, Jeruta 8, Abundo 7, Casino 5, Mutombo 5, Ebondo 4, Opiso 3, Sedurifa 2.
Quarterscores: 19-12; 37-29; 54-46; 63-62.