Joaqui Garcia came back just in time to lead the defending champion Malayan Red Robins to a 71-62 beating of the La Salle Greenhills Greenies on Thursday at the Arena in San Juan.
Garcia, who struggled with an injured knee in the third period, scored a timely triple in the last 4:34, allowing the Red Robins to move out of reach.
“Pinilit ko kahit masakit. Importante kasi itong game na nito,” said the 18 year old Garcia, whose father Yong used to play for the Cardinals.
Their 12th victory in 14 games earned the Red Robins the no. 1 seeding in the Final Four semifinals of the 93rd National Collegiate Athletic Association junior basketball tournament.
The Red Robins moved ahead 44-39, in the last 8:11 off Garcia’s drive following an assist by Clint Escamis.
He left the court after he hurt his knee afterwards.
From there, the Greenies stayed close and took over the lead at least five times, the last off Inand Fornilos’ jumper, 60-59, with 5:14 left.
In the next two possessions, the Cardinals grabbed the upperhand for good off Jeff Sapinit’s putback and Garcia’s trey with 4:34 to go, 64-60.
The Red Robins then clamped down on scoring ace Joel Cagulangan for the rest of the game, and held the Greenies to just a point on 11 defensive stops.
Carl Lacap showed the way with 14 points for the Red Robins, who assured themselves of the no. 1 seeding in the Final Four with their 12-2 card.
“Nagawa namin na ang gusto. Alam namin na di namin masi-zero si Cagulangan. At least man lang, nahirapan at di naka-contribute iyung iba,” said Red Robins coach Randy Alcantara.
The Greenies, with Cagulangan making 15 and Joshua Marcos hitting 14, are in second, and are assured of the no. 2 seeding in the Final Four.