A WINNING tradition continued for the San Beda Red Lions, who are again champions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament.
Robert Bolick Jr. and AC Soberano made things happen, taking charge with their key three pointers in the last two minutes as their baskets carried the defending champions to a 92-82 win over the Lyceum Pirates and to their ninth title in 11 years at the end of the 93rd NCAA cagefest at the Araneta Coliseum on Thursday.
Bolick fired 18 points, with one of his two triples in the last 50.9 seconds serving as the dagger that killed the Pirates’ hopes of turning their fortunes around and gave the Lions a 2-0 sweep of their best-of-three finals.
His last trey spelled the end of the Pirates’ bid to claim their first-ever title as it gave the Red Lions, whose championship experience clearly showed during a tense endgame showdown, an 89-82 edge in the remaining time en route to their 21st crown overall, three more than Letran’s 18.
Soberano, who had 11 points, struck with a triple from the left side off Bolick’s pass with 1:21 remaining, sending the Red Lions ahead, 86-82.
After that, the Pirates tried to reply with an attempt from Jaycee Marcelino, who, however, bungled a three-point attempt.
As CJ Perez fouled out in the final 36 seconds, San Beda College moved further ahead, 90-82, off Finals’ MVP Donald Tankoua’s split charity.
Perez struck with 22 points before he fouled out after being held scoreless in the final quarter.
“The championship will not be a reality if not for my players. They deserve to win this championship. They worked hard for 11 months. We know that in the course of the season, people doubted us. But within the circle of these players we never doubted each other. We know that we did not sweep. We were swept (in the eliminations),” said Boyet Fernandez, who returned this year to coach the Red Lions to their third crown under his guidance. He steered the Red Lions to two titles back in 2013 and 2014 before he left.
Meanwhile, Clint Escamis drilled in 25 points, including 10 crucial ones in the final period to lift the defending champion Malayan High School of Science Red Robins to a 91-81 beating of the La Salle Greenhills Greenies.
The 17-year-old Escamis stepped it up in the absence of the Greenies’ aggressive inside player Inand Fornilos and his efforts helped tie the Red Robins’ best-of-three title series with the Greenies at 1-all after Game 2 of the junior basketball finals.
The 5’11” Escamis shattered a 67-all deadlock at the beginning of the fourth with his layup.
With Mapua losing season MVP Will Gozum to five fouls at the start of the final quarter, Escamis struck hard twice during a 9-0 run with his attacks from the inside as the Robins took a 78-68 spread in the last 6 minutes on Eric Jabel’s baseline jumper.
“I told them to stay aggressive. Possession by possession ito. At huwag madaliin,” said Red Robins’ coach Randy Alcantara.
The Greenies, with Joel Cagulangan leading with 16 points, struggled to catch up with less-experienced big men Ladis Lepalam and Nikki Perez going into mismatches with Escamis.
They struggled in the absence of Mythical Five selection and Rookie of the Year Fornilos, who served a one-game suspension for a disqualifying foul in Game 1.
The Greenies won Game 1, 74-68.
MAPUA 91 – Escamis 25, Bonifacio 18, Jabel 17, Goum 10, Garcia 8, Enriquez 6, Lacap 4, Dennison 3, Ramos 0, Sarias 0, Socias 0
CSB-LSGH 81 – Cagulangan 16, David 12, Marcos 12, Lepalam 10, Mosqueda 9, Perez 9, Sangco 5, Morales 4, Lao 4, Belgica 0, Pedrosa 0, Dela Cruz 0, Cruz 0
QUARTER SCORES: 25-19, 55-46, 67-67, 91-81