Tue 23 July 2024

BACK ON TOP: San Beda reclaims NCAA hoops glory

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It did not take that long for San Beda University to reclaim the most coveted NCAA crown as the 2021 prohibition on foreign student athletes and a twice-to-beat disadvantage in the Final Four did not matter for the now 23-time champion, ending number one seed Mapua University, 76-66, in Game 3 of the seniors basketball finals Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.

With this feat, the winningest basketball varsity team in the country’s oldest collegiate league has won their first all-local championship since 2011, when the Red Lions were then led by Baser Amer, Garvo Lanete, and the Semerad twins.

More remarkably, they became the first championship squad to have overcome a twice-to-beat disadvantage since the Sunday Salvacion-led Benilde Blazers squad of 2000.

The Red Lions previously ousted number two seed Lyceum Pirates, 89-68, 82-72, in the Final Four.

Stretch big Yukien Andrada and scrappy utility wing James Payosing stepped up for the hobbled King Lion Jacob Cortez, mounting a 10-0 run for a 68-61 cushion midway in the payoff period.

Andrada fired two pivotal triples during that stretch while Payosing collared crucial offensive boards along with defensive stops to stymy Mapua’s possessions.

Andrada played the game of his life, leading the champions with 20 points off five triples while Payosing did a yeoman’s job with 11 points, 14 rebounds, and two steals.

Cortez, hero of the series-tying Game Two, collapsed with a cramped left calf in the middle of the third quarter, to which the Cardinals took advantage of, erecting a 57-53 lead coming to the fourth.

He managed to finish with eight points, which included a bank shot in said 10-0 run, on top of eight assists.

“I don’t want to say that this is about me. It’s the players who gave their all,” said a jubilant coach Yuri Escueta, who was named Coach of the Year.

“When we were struggling during the second round, they were the ones who decided that they want to go the other route. That route that nobody believed in us but they continued to believe in themselves,” added the former Red Cub point guard.

Payosing was named Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP), playing an Andre Iguodala-esque performance of 9.7 points and 12 rebounds in the Finals.

Mapua, losing their second finals in three years, was led by power forward JC Recto, who tallied 18 points and 14 boards of 70 per cent shooting while Season MVP Clint Escamis shot another paltry 18 per cent from the field, scoring 13 points.

The Cardinals are yet to win a championship after the 1991 two-peat.

The scores:

San Beda 76 – Andrada 20, Payosing 11, Gonzales 10, Cortez 8, Jopia 6, Royo 6, Tagle 4, Alfaro 4, Puno 3, Visser 2, Cuntapay 2.

Mapua 66 – Recto 18, Escamis 13, Rosillo 10, Hernandez 6, Cuenco 5, Dalisay 5, Bonifacio 4, Soriano 3, Fornis 2, Bancale 0, Sabsalon 0.

Quarter scores: 24-15, 36-35, 53-57, 76-66

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