by Jerome Lagunzad
Defending champion San Beda achieved what it set out to do against a decimated Mapua side yesterday. Still, the Red Lions’ latest performance left coach Boyet Fernandez much to be desired.
“We played bad in the fourth quarter,” lamented Fernandez despite the Red Lions’ 66-55 victory over the Cardinals that tightened their hold of the second spot in the 93rd NCAA seniors basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.
Cameroon center Donald Tankoua continued his steady progress after being sidelined by an ACL injury last year as he finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds while veteran forward Javee Mocon contributed 10 markers and six boards to help San Beda rack up its fifth straight win and sixth overall in seven starts, staying hot on the heels of pace-setting Lyceum (7-0).
However, Fernandez was in no mood to make any celebration following the Red Lions’ unimpressive finish against the Cardinals who showed plenty of fight despite missing the services of top gun Andoy Estrella due to an MCL injury and guard Leo Gabo playing limited minutes due to a swollen ankle.
“If we played the way we played in the fourth quarter, I think we’ll have a hard time,” said the two-time NCAA champion coach who was forced to bring back his starters with a little over a minute left after the Cardinals cut what once was a 25-point lead to nine.
In other games, Letran continued its own resurgence at the expense of Perpetual Help 63-61 while host San Sebastian’s potential was in full display in a 101-71 dismantling of St. Benilde.
Star guard Rey Nambatac tallied a double-double 12 points and 15 rebounds although it was fellow veteran Bong Quinto who shone the brightest down the stretch as he banked in a running shot with 12.6 seconds left that put the Knights ahead on the way to their third straight win, good for solo third spot with a 4-3 mark.
Not to be outdone were the Golden Stags, who became the first team to breach the century mark and, in the process, earned their second straight win, moving up to a tie of fourth place alongside the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals with 3-3 marks.
Perpetual, despite Nigerian import Prince Eze’s 18-point, 16-rebound showing, dropped to eighth spot with a 2-4 mark, half-a-game ahead of St. Benilde.
In juniors play, star guard Evan Nelle put on a dazzling performance as San Beda earned some measure of revenge against defending champion Malayan High School of Science 87-81.
San Sebastian, mainly behind the combined exploits of Damie Cuntapay and Romel Calahat, pulled off a second straight stunner at the expense of La Salle-Greenhills 73-71.