The San Beda Red Lions clamped down on defense to take down the Ateneo Blue Eagles, 49-43, in Game 1 of the best-of-three PCCL President's Cup semifinals Monday at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
The winner of the UAAP-NCAA champions showdown will face the University of Visayas (UV) Green Lancers in the national collegiate championship that kicks off on January 28.
The Red Lions limited the Blue Eagles to just seven points in the first quarter and continued to be in control in the second frame. BJ Andrade's three-point shooting allowed Ateneo to stay close, while Angelo Kouame's buzzer-beating putback pushed the UAAP champions ahead by two, 24-22, at halftime.
The Blue Eagles found their rhythm after the break and quickly built a nine-point edge. Donald Tankoua and Evan Nelle, however, took over to give back the momentum to San Beda and build a 38-33 lead after three periods.
Against San Beda's pesky defense, Ateneo struggled to close the gap in the final quarter. Calvin Oftana's back-to-back layups that put San Beda on top by six, 47-41, with 1:45 left on the clock proved to be the game's dagger. The Blue Eagles failed to convert a single field goal in the last three minutes.
"Credit goes to the coaches because they trusted us. We just relied on teamwork," said Nelle, who was hailed Best Player of the Game with 12 points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Tankoua topped with 18 points and nine rebounds, while James Kwekuteye added nine points, five boards, and three assists.
For Ateneo, Kouame carried most of the load with 13 points, 21 rebounds, and four blocks.
SAN BEDA 49 -- Tankoua 18, Nelle 12, Kwekuteye 9, Oftana 4, Soberano 2, Doliguez 2, Etrata 2, Alfaro 0, Cariño 0, Abuda 0, Cuntapay 0, Bahio 0, Eugene 0.
ATENEO 43 -- Kouame 13, Andrade 11, Navarro 7, Belangel 5, Ravena 5, Mamuyac 2, Go 0, Credo 0, Berjay 0, Nieto J. 0, Nieto M. 0, Mendoza 0.
Quarters: 11-7, 22-24, 38-33, 49-43.
- The Red Lions went to battle without stars Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon, who already made their debuts in the PBA with NorthPort and Rain or Shine, respectively.
- The Blue Eagles were held to single digits in the first and third quarters, shooting only 16-for-58 from the field.
- The UV Green Lancers booked the first finals slot by sweeping the Naga College Foundation (NCF) Tigers in the best-of-three regional championship held in Davao City.
Game 2 on January 24 (Thursday) at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City