Lions roar past Cardinals sans Ola, Amer

San Beda's forward Art dela Cruz carries the load as big man Ola Adeogun and playmaker Baser Amer miss the opener with separate injuries. File Photo

MANILA, Philippines -- San Beda bucked the absence of Ola Adeogun and Baser Amer as it turned back a fiesty Mapua, 102-89, Saturday to set in motion its six-peat feat bid in the 91st NCAA basketball tournament at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.

Arthur dela Cruz stepped up in the absence of Adeogun (hamstring) and Amer (shoulder) with game-high 27 points and 17 rebounds to go with six assists as the Lions gifted rookie coach Jamike Jarin his first ever victory in college level.

"It feels good winning, it will feel better if we keep winning more," said Jarin, who started coaching in high school and steered Ateneo to multiple UAAP championships and then coached Batang Gilas to its first ever FIBA Worlds stint.

It was also a win that jumpstarted San Beda's bid to become the first team to win six straight titles.

Cameroonian Pierre Tankoua made a good account of himself on his first ever NCAA game with 18 points, eight boards and a block while Ranbill Tongco and Micole Sorela added 18 and 11, respectively.

The high-scoring game is also a statement by the Lions to run their opponents down.

"If you've been following me, I like to have my teams run all the time so as long as we outscore our opponents, I'll be happy," said Jarin.

The Cardinals matched the Lions' speed with speed and even overhauled the latter's double-digit leads to knot the count twice, the last at 62-all late in the third quarter with Nigerian neophyte Allwell Oraeme and returning Josan Nimes and Andretti Stevens running the show.

But when the Lions shut Nimes down and Oraeme fouled out early in the fourth quarter, Mapua had nothing left in the gas tank to keep up with San Beda's torrid pace.

Nimes, who missed the last two seasons with ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury, paced his team with 23 points but was held to just five in the second half while the 6-9 Oraeme debuted with monster numbers of 13 points, 16 boards and four blocks.

Stevens, who was also sidelined by a torn ACL a year ago, returned with 13 points, seven assists and two steals.

The Lions dictated the pace early as it roared to a 22-7 start before Nimes played man-possessed and kept the Cardinals in the game in the first half after he erupted for 17 points in the period.

Earlier, the league was officially ushered on by league president Dr. Reynaldo Vea of host Mapua and Mapua alumnus and PBA legend Alvin Patrimonio in extravagant opening rites.

Also handed out was a posthumous award for Jose Rizal high school player CJ Servillion after he passed away in a pre-season summer tournament last month.

In the other game, Jose Rizal bared its title intention as it overpowered last year's runner up Arellano University, 78-61, to seize an early share of the lead with San Beda.

Cameroonian Abdul Poutouochi debuted with 23 points and 11 rebounds to power the Bombers to their first win that launched their bid to end a 43-year championship drought.

"It's our defense that won us," said Jose Rizal coach Vergel Meneses.

The scores:

San Beda 102- Dela Cruz 27, Tankoua 18, Tongco 18, Koga 16, Solera 11, Sara 6, Mocon 2, Presbiterio 2, Sedillo 2, Cabanag 0, Soberano 0, Reyes 0, Bonsubre 0

Mapua 89- Nimes 23, Stevens 13, Oraeme 13, Menina 12, Serrano 10, Villasenor 8, Que 3, Raflores 3, Brana 2, dela Rosa 2, Biteng 0, Nietes 0, Aguirre 0, Layug 0

Quarterscores: 23-20; 49-38; 73-65; 102-89

Second Game
Jose Rizal 78- Poutouochi 23, Teodoro 11, Abdulwaha 9, Lasquety 8, Sanchez 7, dela Paz 6, Grospe 6, Pontejos 4, Cruz 2, Aurin 2, Astilla 0, Balagtas 0, dela Virgen 0

Arellano U 61- Salado 15, Holts 11, Enriquez 10, Cadavis 8, Bangga 5, Gumaru 5, Jalalon 4, Nichols 3, Meca 0, Ongolo 0, Ortega 0, de Guzman 0, Zamora 0, Tano 0

Quarterscores: 19-all; 40-28; 66-41; 78-61

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