Defending champion San Beda College defeated Lyceum of the Philippines University 87-80 on Thursday in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 91 men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.
The pro-bound 6’4 forward Arthur Dela Cruz, who was picked ninth overall by the Blackwater Elite during the Philippine Basketball Association’s Rookie Draft last August, scored 25 points with eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.
The 11th victory against three defeats of the Red Lions also allowed them to tie the Letran Knights on top of the team standings. The Knights, likewise, also hold an 11-3 win-loss record.
The Red Lions though couldn’t enjoy the game that much after the Pirates trim¬med down their 20-point third quarter lead to just as low as five points (62-67) in the early fourth period.
But Dela Cruz and the Red Lions responded to the challenge and eventually send the Pirates to their 12th loss after 15 games.
“We just didn’t panic and try to execute our plays,” said San Beda coach Jamike Jarin. “That’s what coaching is all about. You try to give them (his players) the best opportunity and exposure, hope we go to the playoffs with everybody healthy.”
Lyceum’s forward Wilson Baltazar and Joseph Gabayni had a career-high 28 and 24 points, respectively, but their efforts were not enough to upset the oldest collegiate league’s reigning champion.
In the first game, San Sebastian College routed a hapless Emilio Aguinaldo College squad 91-77 in a non-bearing game that just improved the Golden Stags’ win-loss record to 4-10.
Guard Jamil Ortuoste produced 24 points and Spencer Pretta hit a career-high 19 points, including five shots from beyond the arc. They merged for 25 points of San Sebastian’s 35 second quarter points that provided them a 51-35 halftime advantage.
They were never threatened from thereon.
“We just came into the game with a positive attitude,” said San Sebastian coach Rodney Santos. “There is no pressure on our part but I just told the players to enjoy our five remaining games and learn.”
San Sebastian College also avenged its 71-77 defeat to EAC in the first round.
Francis Munsayac led the Generals with 21 points while Laminou Hamadou and Sydney Onwubere posted 20 and 16 points, respectively.
The Generals narrowed the gap to 75-77 with only less than four minutes to go.
But Ortuoste scored the needed points in the remaining minutes to seal the Stags’ win.
The Generals’ win-loss record dropped to 2-12.