By Jerome Lagunzad
Manila, Philippines – Championship pedigree trumped resiliency last night as reigning titlist San Beda turned back host San Sebastian, 76-71, in their knockout battle to book a return trip to the NCAA seniors basketball finals at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Veteran big man Javee Mocon flexed his muscles throughout with a monster 20-20 performance while star guard Robert Bolick provided timely sniping from beyond the arc as the Red Lions jumped the gun on the Golden Stags and displayed enough poise to hold their ground in the crunch.
With its third straight win over San Sebastian in as many meetings this season, San Beda earned the right to face outright finalist Lyceum in a best-of-three title showdown starting on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Lyceum became the first team to reach the finals after completing an 18-game sweep of the eliminations.
“This was the most crucial game for us since we’re never been in this place before,” said the 6-foot-3 Mocon who did most of the heavy lifting with game-highs of 23 points and 22 rebounds on top of five blocks. “Pinatunayan talaga namin na we’re really the defending champions.”
Fresh from a 19-day break, the Red Lions showed no signs of slowing down as Bolick knocked down nine of his 21 points, all from beyond the arc, in their roaring start that saw them take control early on and build a lead as high of 18.
The Golden Stags settled down in the second canto and, as expected, came charging back in the third behind their suffocating defensive pressure and unpredictable offensive attack.
The third triple from Jayson David followed by a Ryan Costelo floater pulled San Sebastian within 67-62 with more than five minutes to play, keeping San Beda’s faithful on the edge of their seats.
But the Red Lions responded on a big way that they can as Mocon and Cameroon import Donald Tankoua asserted their might over the Golden Stags counterparts who apparently lost their composure that helped them restore their lead back to 76-62 with two minutes to play.
San Sebastian star Michael Calisaan, fresh from a 35-point explosion against Letran, groped for form against San Beda’s tenacious defense anchored by Mocon, coming up with just 10 points on a rough 5-of-16 shooting from the field.
“I know people have been doubting us. But the players believe in themselves. Sabi nila, ‘Coach we lost the game against Lyceum but just give us your trust. I gave them my trust, and they gave me this day,” said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez.
SAN BEDA 76 – Mocon 23, Bolick 21, Tankoua 13, Soberano 9, Potts 6, Presbitero 4, Abuda 0, Cariño 0, Doliguez 0, Noah 0, Tongco 0.
SAN SEBASTIAN 71 – David 16, Costelo 15, Calisaan 10, Capobres 7, Calma 6, Gayosa 6, Bulanadi 4, Navarro 3, Ilagan 2, Mercado 2, Baetiong 0, Valdez 0.
Quarters: 26-11; 44-31; 57-51; 76-71.
Tags: Javee Mocon, NCAA game, NCAA Season 93, ncaa season 93 basketball, ncaa season 93 champion, ncaa season 93 championship, ncaa season 93 game results, ncaa season 93 scores, Red Lions, Robert Bolick, San Beda, San Sebastian
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