THE defending champion San Beda Red Lions struggled with complacency all throughout, but came away with 66-55 swamping of the undermanned Mapua Cardinals at the Arena in San Juan.
They leaned on the outside shots of their second unit players in the final period as they went on to post their fifth consecutive victory yesterday in the 93rd National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament.
Baskets from JB Bahio and Kenmark Carino helped the Red Lions stay ahead by 24 points in the last seven minutes, 58-34.
But three-pointers from the likes of JP Nieles allowed the Cardinals to stay within range, 55-64, in the final minute.
“If we played the way we did today, I think they (Mapua) had a good chance of winning this game,” said Red Lions coach Boyet Fernandez.
The Red Lions stayed behind the solo-leading Lyceum Pirates, which are in front after staying unbeaten after seven games.
Meanwhile, Michael Calisaan fired 20 points, while Alfred Gayosa delivered 15 points for the San Sebastian Stags as they demolished the College of St. Benilde Blazers, 101-71.
This handed the Stags their third win in six games, while the Blazers are behind at 2-4.
Donald Tankoua showed the way for the Red Lions with 11 points and 16 rebounds, while Javee Mocon backed him up with 10.
Robert Bolick, who is recovering from a bum stomach, only had six.
Tankoua joined hands with Javee Mocon for 10 points in the first period, and they went on to take a 17-2 edge.
From there, the Red Lions enjoyed a 25-spread, 49-24, in the closing minutes of the third.
The Cardinals struggled with Andoy Estrella suffering a knee injury, while Leo Gabo did not return after leaving the game in the third quarter.
In Estrella’s absence, Christian Bunag led with 20 points, 18 rebounds, and four blocks.
In the junior division, Cebuano cager Ain Obenza poured in 11 of his 12-point tally in the fourth period as he powered the San Beda Red Cubs to an 87-81 stopping of the defending champion Mapua Red Robins.
The Red Cubs climbed to a share of second with La Salle Greenhills (5-2), while the Red Robins are still in the solo lead with their 6-1 win-loss card.
Romel Calahat sank 12 points, including two winning charities in the last 26.6 seconds, lifting the San Sebastian Staglets to a 73-71 win over LSGH.