By Jerome Lagunzad
3:30 p.m. — San Beda vs Lyceum
(Game 2, — lead series 1-0)
Bolick rises as San Beda beats Lyceum in Game 1.
Never underestimate the heart of a champion.
Cameroon big man Donald Tankoua imposed his will down low while peppery Robert Bolick struck hardest down the stretch as reigning titlist San Beda pierced Lyceum’s cloak of invincibility, 94-87, and move a win away from retaining its crown in the NCAA seniors basketball tournament yesterday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The 6-foot-7 Tankoua muscled his way to game highs of 27 points and 20 rebounds before the ever-steady Bolick took charge in the crunch by scoring nine of their last 11 points to help the Red Lions complete a stirring fightback from a 12-point deficit and deal the Pirates a reality check on their breakthrough finals appearance.
“A lot of people said, the heart of LPU is really big but the heart of my players were really big as well,” said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez. “I just give credit to my players. We were down by 12 points (in the third period) but they never gave up.”
The morale-boosting victory, witnessed by a capacity crowd mostly clad in red shirts, was San Beda’s first over erstwhile unbeaten Lyceum after three tries this season.
More importantly, the Red Lions inched closer towards a 10th title in the last 12 years and 21st overall.
Fernandez, however, knows the battle is far from over as he and the Red Lions brace themselves for an expected fightback from Lyceum counterpart Topex Robinson and the Pirates in Game 2 set on Thursday.
“Yes, we’re still the underdogs. We still need to win one more game,” he said. “We haven’t achieved anything yet.
They’re still the favorites.”
The Pirates, led by newly-minted season MVP CJ Perez, certainly looked every inch of that in the first half where they forced the Red Lions to turn the ball over 14 times and translated those errors into 18 points that allowed them to build a 39-28 lead off Reymar Caduyac’s complete three-point play.
Lyceum continued its onslaught after the turn, stretching its lead to as high of 12 at 57-45 off MJ Ayaay’s triple, forcing Fernandez to sue for time barely two minutes into the third period.
Under siege, the Red Lions responded the way that only they can behind a 19-3 attack before Ayaay scored a lay-up and Perez made two freebies to help the Pirates tie things up at 64-apiece into the fourth.
Both teams then engaged in a virtual shootout until the final two minutes where Bolick played like a man possessed, scoring eight straight points as San Beda made it a 91-83 affair, time down to just 35 seconds.
The 6-foot-1 Perez finished with a team-high 25 points while Cameroon Mike Nzeusseu collected 14 points and eight rebounds but the Pirates, fresh from a 22-day break, still ran out of steam in the crunch.
SAN BEDA 94 – Tankoua 27, Bolick 24, Potts 15, Mocon 11, Soberano 9, Tongco 4, Doliguez 2, Noah 2, Abuda 0, Presbitero 0, Adamos 0.
LYCEUM 87 – Perez 25, Nzeusseu 14, Ayaay 11, Caduyac 9, Marcelino JV 8, Marcelino JC 6, Ibanez 6, Santos 5, Pretta 3, Serrano 0, Baltazar 0.
Quarters: 22-21; 45-50; 64-64; 94-87.