San Beda, Letran set up finals showdown
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - November 7, 2013 - 7:27pm

MANILA, Philippines – Three-peat champion San Beda and Letran forged an explosive title rematch in the 89th NCAA seniors basketball tourney after making short work of their respective Final Four rivals Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The top-seeded Lions cranked it up in the fourth quarter to trounce No. 4 Perpetual, 70-51, while the No. 2 Knights drew monster numbers from pro-bound Raymond Almazan to rout No. 3 San Sebastian, 85-58, as the season's most dominant teams took their projected spots in the finale.

They will kick off their best-of-three titular duel on Monday, also at the MOA Arena.

Ola Adeogun, who was saddled with foul trouble in the half, bounced back with an 11-point performance in the last 20 minutes, presiding over a lethal 16-2 salvo to rip the game apart, 53-39, with 5:40 left.

Adeogun also grabbed 11 rebounds and had one shot block and was backstopped by Arthur dela Cruz's 11 points and 14 boards and Roldan Sara's nine markers and two assists as the Lions stormed to their eighth straight finals appearance.

"Perpetual came really prepared for us and they had success in the first half. But during the halftime break, the players promised 'we'll get back and we'll win this ball game.' True to their words, they stepped up in the second half," said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez.

The Lions' championship experience came to fore in the payoff period, where they outscored the Altas, 32-14.

Almazan,  who was drafted third overall in last Sunday's PBA rookie draft by Rain or Shine, came through with a near triple-double, firing 19 points, grabbing 23 rebounds and blocking nine shots in a truly dominating performance for last year's runner-up Letran.

"Bago ako mag-pro, gusto ko mag-champion so focused talaga ako sa NCAA (My goal is to win an NCAA title before I turn pro)," said the 6-foot-7 star, the leading contender for the MVP plum. "Wala akong pakialam kung ano'ng makuha kong award, balewala iyun kung hindi kami mag-champion (More than any individual award, it's the championship that I want.)"

Almazan shot 7-for-7 in the two-point area and missed his lone attempt from beyond the arc. He had nine offensive boards, which helped Letran score 13 second-chance points, and posted the most shot blocks since San Beda's Sudan Daniel had 10 in 2010.

"He really deserves to be in the PBA. Sayang hindi niya nakuha yung 10 blocks. Ang kagandahan naman sa kanya, he doesn't care, basta manalo (It's just a pity he didn't get his triple double but the good thing is that all he cares about is getting the win). He just has to bring it to the next level in the finals," said coach Caloy Garcia of his prized slotman.

 Mark Cruz shot 19 for Letran along with four assists, while Kevin Racal added 16 markers and Rey Nambatac chipped in 13, all of them in the fourth period where the Knights seized a 83-55 tear.

"Lahat kami may kumpyansa, may go-signal kay coach na tumira. Kung sino nasa loob, wag mag-hesitate tumira, kahit magkamali, yan ang maganda sa coaching staff namin (We're all confident offensively and everyone has the license to shoot without fear of being punished for making mistakes)," said Almazan.

The Knights held SSC's Jaymar Perez and John Ortuoste to 11 and 10 markers, respectively, on a combined 7-for-37 clip.

"That was the plan. We didn't want Ortuoste and Perez to do what they've been doing all season," said Garcia.

In the juniors division's stepladder semis, La Salle Greenhills defeated Mapua, 59-56, to set a duel with No. 2 San Sebastian on Saturday. Unbeaten San Beda awaits in the finals armed with thrice-to-beat.

Notes:  Although the NCAA has deferred its probe on San Beda's guard Ryusei Koga, the Red Lions decided to sit out the controversial guard accused of violating rules by playing in an outside league. "In view of the decision of the NCAA to defer its investigation...and while such deferment is pending, we have decided not to play Mr. Koga in the Final Four," said SBC team manager Jude Roque.

The Scores:

First game

CSJL 85 - Cruz 19, Almazan 19, Racal 16, Nambatac 13, Tambeling 7, Olotu 3, Castro 2, Po 2, Ruaya 2, Luib 2, Belorio 0, Buenaflor 0, Gabawan 0, Publico 0.

SSCR 58 - Perez 11, Dela Cruz 10, De Vera 10, Ortuoste 10, Guinto 8, Aquino 4, Rebollos 3, Vergara 2, Balucanag 0, Gusi 0, Padilla 0, Trinidad 0, Balid 0, Tano 0, Magno 0.

Quarterscores: 17-10, 32-27, 57-44, 85-58.

Second game

SBC 70 - Adeogun 11, De la Cruz 11, Sara 9, De la Rosa 9, Amer 8, D. Semerad 7, Pascual 6, Ludovice 4, Abarcar3, A. Semerad 2, Mendoza 0, Bonsubre 0.

UPHSD 51 - Alano 12, Omorogbe 7, Jolangcob 7, Arboleda 6, Paulino 6, Baloria 6, Oliveria 4, Elopre 3, Thompson 0, Ylanan 0, Bantayan 0, Bitoy 0.

Quarterscores: 11-9, 21-25, 38-37, 70-51.

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