In the titanic showdown of the rematch of last year’s finals, runners-up San Sebastian drew first blood, 80-71, over back-to-back champions San Beda in their first round encounter in Season 88 of the NCAA at the Arena in San Juan.
Reigning MVP and pro-bound Calvin Abueva had another monster game, falling short of a triple double by just one assist. He finished with 21 points and 21 rebounds alongside nine assists, but it was the other PBA hopeful Ronald Pascual who waxed hot as he paced the Stags with 28 points and five boards.
The epic match-up drew up an almost capacity crowd at the venue that also saw former San Sebastian players Gilbert Bulawan and Anthony Del Rio showing their support for their former teammates.
San Beda, who last tasted defeat almost a month ago, absorbed only their second loss today. They now stand at solo third with a 6-2 record.
The Stags are now on top of the standings with a 7-2 card.
It was all San Sebastian basketball at the opening tip after the Stags held San Beda to just fifteen points in the first ten minutes of action.
Seldom-used Dexter Maiquez hit a short jumper late in the second period to give the Stags their biggest spread of 22, 44-22.
A 9-2 blast from Baser Amer and Anjo Caram momentarily halted San Sebastian’s momentum towards the half as the Red Lions cut their deficit down to 15.
A momentum shift in the third paved the way for San Beda’s comeback as Amer spearheaded a 14-2 run towards the end of the quarter, pushing the Red Lions to within one, 58-59.
The Stags, who were unable to hold a decent practice until last Thursday due to a moist court, were fully aware of San Beda’s character.
“We know San Beda is gonna go back,” said San Sebastian coach Topex Robinson. “I just told my players don’t be surprised and don’t panic. Don’t protect the lead. We just had to make stops sa dulo, yun ang crucial.”
Despite coming off a 61-54 loss at the hands of Mapua last week, the Stags warded off negativity by charging the loss to experience.
“We have an obligation to our school and the league. We had our ups and downs. This is a long series. Its all about being always being humble,” Robinson added.
“Maganda yung simula ko pero medyo napagod din nung midway,” said the 24-year-old Pascual. “Buti naoopen ako sa dulo, at confident ako sa mga tinitira ko nun. Medyo pressured din ako dahil kailangan magpakita dahil sinascout na sa draft.”
The Red Lions will still face the Letran Knights on Thursday before they officially end their first round.
San Sebastian (80) — Pascual 28, Abueva 21, Maiquez 11, Sangalang 9, Dela Cruz 4, Antipuesto 3, Juico 2, Rebollos 2, Binuya 0, Balucanag 0, Miranda 0.
San Beda (71) — Caram 17, Amer 14, J. Pascual 10, K. Pascual 8, Dela Rosa 6, Mendoza 6, Lim 6, Adeogun 4, Koga 0, Dela Cruz 0.
Quarterscores: 32-15, 46-31, 59-58, 80-71.