In a stunning display of grit, poise, and determination, the San Beda Red Lions were able to outlast their rivals Letran Knights in overtime, 80-76, on Friday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The defending champions were down for the count after Letran's Jerrick Balanza hit a go-ahead basket with 3.8 seconds left in regulation. Down by two, the Red Lions went with last year's Finals MVP Donald Tankoua and the big man delivered to tie game at 69 all with 0.2 seconds in regulation.
"As what I've said, it will be a tough game against Letran. It's really the rivalry worth watching for," said coach Boyet Fernandez. "The coaches of Letran did a good job on this game. We should've won it regulation, but credit to Letran, they did a good job in the fourth that's why they came out [and forced OT]."
In the extra session, Fernandez made a bold move and inserted AC Soberano, who barely saw action throughout the game. The knockdown shooter has been hampered by an injury but his coach trusted him in the closing minutes. Soberano answered in confidence and hit two booming triples in overtime. He also dished out the assist that led to a Tankoua basket with 41.8 ticks left in the extra session to give San Beda a two-point edge, 78-76.
"AC not playing the whole game, look at him, that's the epitome of stepping up," beamed Fernandez.
The Knights weren't able to respond in consecutive possessions and Robert Bolick iced the game with his foul shots.
"It's really nice when you face your arch rival because you really want to win," Bolick said.
Bolick top-scored for San Beda with 20 points and did his work on the glass with 11 rebounds. Even though the lead guard had six assists, he unfortunately committed seven turnovers. Tankoua had 11 points and 13 rebounds. Soberano finished the game with six points in less than five minutes.
For the Knights, Bong Quinto muscled his way to 21 points and 11 rebounds, and put his team on his back in the second half. Calvo added 14 points in the loss.
The Knights did most of their damage inside with 38 points but was outrebounded by the Red Lions, 52-41. Led by Soberano's two 3's, the defending champions finished the game with 12 triples.
San Beda remains undefeated in NCAA Season 94 with a 5-0 record while the Knights settle for a 4-2 card.
EAC def. Mapua, 89-85
After a slow start to the season, the EAC Generals have notched their first back-to-back wins of the season following an 89-85 decision over the Mapua Cardinals.
In the end, the game went down to free throws. With 13.5 seconds remaining and the Generals clinging to a one-point lead, 84-83, a mad scramble resulted in an unsportsmanlike foul on EAC's CJ Cadua and a technical foul on Mapua's Victroia Lorenz.
The Cardinals had a chance to take the lead but Denniel Aguirre missed both his shots from the charity stripe. Garcia was able to knock down the technical free throw and converted on two more foul shots to push the EAC lead to four points, 87-83. Sean Neri also went perfect from the line with 3.2 seconds to seal the win.
"The free throw disaster that happened to us in our opening game, we worked on that," head coach Ariel Sison as the Generals finished with 20-for-28 from the line.
Hamadou Laminou lifted his team with a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds and Jerome Garcia chipped in with 14 points and three assists.
The Generals are now 2-4 while the Cardinals are 2-5 after suffering three straight losses.
Arellano def. JRU, 79-70
The Arellano Chiefs earned their third win of the season after defeating the JRU Heavy Bombers, 79-70.
Maui Sera Josef shot the lights out with 17 points while also adding nine rebounds. The Filipino-American forward scored a total of 16 points in his first five games, but suddenly came alive against the Heavy Bombers.
"Maui is a stretch four, we were able to match up with the players of coach Vergel (Meneses)," said coach Jerry Codiñera.
Jed Mendoza put up 23 points but the Heavy Bombers remain winless after six games.