Lions outlast Cardinals, force do-or-die for NCAA crown

Game Sunday

(Smart Araneta Coliseum)

2 p.m. – San Beda vs Mapua


Cat-quick Jacob Cortez made sure there would be a deciding Game 3 by coming through with a game to remember.

Before a huge crowd of 22,465, the 5-foot-11 Cortez took over in the crunch anew as San Beda frustrated Mapua, 71-65, to force a do-or-die in the NCAA Season 99 men’s basketball tournament on Sunday, Dec. 10 at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Apart from his blinding speed, Cortez was deadly from a far, scoring 21 points spiked by a dagger 3-point shot with 3 minutes remaining for a 67-61 lead before dishing out a perfect assist to Yukien Andrada who also a buried a three that all but sealed the deal.

Cortez’s stellar performance – he also had 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals – enabled the Mendiola-based squad to recover from a 53-47 deficit in the opening minutes of the final frame and spoil Clint Escamis’ MVP coronation.

The deciding Game 3 is on Sunday, Dec. 17, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum where more cage fans are expected.

San Beda head coach Yuri Escueta paid tribute once again to the team’s never-say-die attitude for the win, saying they had been in this situation many times in the past.

“Todo na ito, we’ve been in this situation before not just one time, like six or five times before na nangyari satin ‘to and the only thing that we told to ourselves is wag sumuko,” Escueta said.

“So nakita ko sa kanila [kung gaano sila ka-intense], ako nahawa sa intensity and eagerness nila na not to give up,” he added.

The Red Lions played solid in the first half and gained a 42-27 cushion – thanks to the efforts of Cortez, Cliff Jopia and Jomel Puno.

But the Cardinals regained their form with JC Recto and Jopet Soriano making up for the not-so impressive showing of Escamis and Paolo Hernandez.

Escamis wound up with 15 points on a dismal 4-of-21 shooting from field.

The scores:

SAN BEDA 71– Cortez 21, Puno 9, Andrada 9, Jopia 8, Alfaro 7, Royo 6, Cuntapay 5, Payosing 4, Tagle 2, Gonzales 0, Visser 0.
MAPUA 65– Escamis 15, Recto 14, Hernandez 13, Soriano 10, Cuenco 5, Rosillo 5, Bonifacio 3, Asuncion 0, Dalisay 0, Bancale 0.

Quarters: 20-19; 42-30; 48-53; 71-65.