SAN BEDA coach Boyet Fernandez knew they would need to slow down the College of St. Benilde (CSB) troika of Will Gozum, Robi Nayve and AJ Benson for the Lions to have a chance at a win.
Unleashing its defensive might to the fullest, San Beda shackled CSB in a tension-filled 63-57 victory on Sunday to book its 14th straight Final Four appearance in the 97th National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
The triumph set up the third-seeded Lions against the Mapua Cardinals, who own the twice-to-beat edge after winning over the former for the second seed, on Sunday.
A deciding second game, if necessary, will be held on May 11.
It secured San Beda a place in the semis for the 14th season in row.
The last time the Bedans did not make it that far was in 2005.
Since then, the Lions went on a rampage and made the finals in every season starting in 2006, winning a total of 11 titles including a five-peat feat in between.
And defense did the trick for the Lions, who held Gozum, Nayve, and Benson to just a combined 24 points after the trio averaged around 40 a game.
The Blazers also ended up scoring way less than their 75-point norm per outing.
“That’s (defense) our first priority,” said Mr. Fernandez. “We limited Benson, Gozum was in foul trouble and Nayve was in and out of the game.”
“I commend my players for sticking with the game plan,” he added.
So frustrated was Benson that he was slapped with a flagrant and a technical foul that led to his ejection.
One of those unsportsmanlike fouls came against San Beda’s James Kwekuteye, who sprained his left ankle after a Benson tackle near midcourt with less than two minutes to go while trying to steal the ball from the former.
San Beda’s Yukien Andrada and Franz Abuda were slapped with a technical foul each in separate instances after the Kwekuteye incident.
Mr. Kwekuteye never returned after scoring a game-high 17 points including eighth in a pivotal fourth quarter stretch.
Good thing, San Beda kept its composure in preserving the win.
Mr. Fernandez, however, couldn’t be restrained from lashing out at the officiating.
“We’re not protesting anything, we just want them to check if there were mistakes by their refs. If we are wrong, we will admit it. If they are wrong, they have to acknowledge it. It was really bad, I pity my players,” said Mr. Fernandez.
The Blazers, who came here gunning for their first playoffs appearance in two decades, will have another chance to end their semis drought as they clash with the winner of the University of Perpetual Help-Arellano University game on Wednesday. — Joey Villar
San Beda 63 – Kwekuteye 17, Andrada 11, Ynot 8, Bahio 6, Penuela 5, Cuntapay 4, Sanchez 4, Amsali 4, Alfaro 3, Cortez 1, Abuda 0, Gallego 0, Jopia 0.
CSB 57 – Nayve 10, Marcos 9, Gozum 8, Lepalam 8, Carlos 6, Benson 6, Cullar 3, Lim 3, Flores 3, Sangco 1, Publico 0, Davis 0.
Quarterscores: 18-7; 26-20; 40-37; 63-57.