February 25, 2018, 6:07 am
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Lions frustrate Pirates, keep crown

SAN Beda star Robert Bolick came up with a performance befitting a “King Lion” yesterday.

Playing his last game and the match on the line, Bolick simply refused to lose, delivering the dagger straight to the heart of the Lyceum Pirates.

Bolick combined with AC Soberano down the stretch as the Red Lions completed a sweep of the once-invisible Pirates in the 93rd NCAA season finals, scoring a 92-82 victory in Game 2 before a wild and roaring crowd of 14,693 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum for their 21st title.

The 6-foot-1 Bolick scattered a team-high 18 points, none bigger than a booming three-pointer that gave San Beda an 89-82 cushion with 50.9 seconds left, sending the Lions’ faithful of 14,000-plus into a frenzy. He also had five rebounds and issued six assists in his final game for San Beda.

Donald Tankoua, the Lions’ 6-foot-6 Cameroonian import, notched a double-double of 17 markers and 17 boards and was named Finals MVP.

Davon Potts, who will suit up for Alaska in the pro league; Javee Mocon, and Soberano also came up big for San Beda, wounding up with 15, 14, and 11 points, respectively.

The win came on the heels of the Lions’ gutsy 94-87 triumph in the finals opener last Nov. 10 that ended Lyceum’s 18-game winning streak. The Red Lions bagged their 10th title in the last 12 years while foiling the Pirates’ bid for their first NCAA title.

“Bad game ako ng first half, they (Lyceum) did a really good job. Itong finals na ito kung pwede lang dalawang champion, ibibigay ko to sa kanila,” said Bolick. 

“They really made us earn it. This is the first time in 12 years that we came in as underdogs. Siguro, ‘yung experience lang talaga namin ang edge namin,” he added.

Coach Boyet Fernandez, who returned at the helm of the Lions last year, lauded his charges for not giving up on their title-retention bid that was clouded with doubts after the Pirates beat them twice in the eliminations.

“This championship will not be a reality if not for my players,” Fernandez, who now has three NCAA titles under his belt, said.

“They deserve to win this championship because they worked hard really well, they sacrificed for about 11 months and we know in the course of the season they doubted us but the circle of this team never doubted,” he added.

Out to forge a deciding Game 3, Lyceum came out with guns blazing and took a 47-41 lead at the half.

The Intramuros-based cagers also enjoyed a 55-47 spread on a CJ Perez basket at the 6:50 mark of the third canto before San Beda charged back and made it 66-65 going into the payoff period.

“Medyo tense sila nu’ng first half because they really wanted to win this game. Nag-settle down kami ng halftime, told the boys that we need to make stops, one stop at a time if we want to be able to win the championship,” said Fernandez.

Mike Nzeusseu’s three-point play pulled the Pirates to within 82-83 with 1:41 to go but Soberano and Bolick put the game–and the crown–away with back-to-back triples.

Perez, the league’s newly-minted MVP, paced Lyceum with 22 points, four rebounds, and five dimes while Nzeusseu and Jaycee Marcelino added 15 and 12, respectively, that went down the drain as the Pirates head into the season break pondering what went wrong after an impressive eliminations campaign.
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