In a preview of the upcoming Final Four, top seed San Beda Red Lions edged fourth-seed Perpetual Help Altas, 80-72, on the last day of the elimination round of NCAA Season 94 Tuesday at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
The Red Lions, who were already assured of the number one spot heading into their matchup versus the Altas, used five graduating players to start the game.
"It's a seniors day for us today," said coach Boyet Fernandez. "That's why we started all our graduating players today. I credit them for starting very well."
Robert Bolick, Javee Mocon, Radge Tongco, Joe Presbitero, and Jeramer Cabanag started the game and rewarded their coach accordingly. In particular, Cabanag poured in a career-high 16 points on 4-for-8 shooting, including two 3-pointers. Donald Tankoua top-scored for his squad with a big double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds.
Just as they've done for the entire season, the defending champions once again displayed impenetrable defense down the stretch. The score was tied at 71 apiece with four minutes remaining, but the Altas failed to score a field goal in their next set of possessions. A basket by Tankoua made it a nine-point game, 80-71, with under two minutes remaining as San Beda held on.
"We can't allow Perpetual to score 28 points in the third quarter," mentioned Fernandez, after Perpetual had a successful third period. "They led at the end of the quarter. We cannot do that in the Final Four."
Kim Aurin had 18 points while Edgar Charcos tallied 17. The two top gunners also collected a combined 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
"We tried to play everyone today because its the end of the eliminations. Credit to everyone who sacrificed. Hopefully, this makes us ready for the semis," Fernandez said.
San Beda and Perpetual Help will meet on Friday with the Red Lions owning a twice-to-beat advantage.
In contrast to the Red Lions, playoff-bound Letran Knights faltered in their last game versus the CSB Blazers. Clement Leutcheu powered his way to 19 points as the Blazers end their season on a high note with a 94-81 win.
"We wanted to end with a strong season ender for us. It's been a long time since we ended with a winning record," a proud coach TY Tang said as his team finishes at 10-8. "We still have a lot to work on in preparation for next season."
Bong Quinto put up a valiant effort of 22 points, seven boards, and four dimes but the Knights didn't play to their usual selves and fell behind as much as 20 points. Fortunately, they are still headed to the Final Four with a 13-5 record. They will face the Lyceum Pirates also on Friday.
Last season, St. Benilde only had four wins and 14 losses. Its six-win improvement this year is a testament to the team's growing program.
"We are starting for next season a few days from now. Hopefully, we look to build and grow together as a team," Tang said.
In the first game, the San Sebastian Stags ended their season with a 91-63 blowout over the Arellano Chiefs. Graduating forward Michael Calisaan ended his NCAA career with a superb stat line of 24 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, and three steals. San Sebastian finishes with a 6-12 record while Arellano concludes its season at 5-13.