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San Beda staves off Mbala domination to take PCCL Finals Game 1

Ivan Saldajeno
By Ivan Saldajeno

San Beda bucked an impressive outing from La Salle's Ben Mbala to win an 88-81 decision in Game 1 of the PCCL Finals at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.

Mbala made 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting, 14 rebounds, and four blocks in just 25 minutes of action, giving Ola Adeogun and Pierre Tankoua a hard time on guarding him.

Both Adeogun and Tankoua got their fourth fouls in just the third quarter with the latter fouling out with 8:55 left in the fourth quarter.

But the Red Lions relied on their jumpshooting in the second half to make up for Mbala's inside presence.

After La Salle led momentarily, 59-58, with only 44 seconds left in the third, three-pointers from Baser Amer and Dan Sara; and back-to-back baskets from Jaypee Mendoza sparked a 10-1 San Beda spanning the final two periods to go up, 68-60, with 8:40 remaining.

Prince Rivero and Kib Montalbo each scored a field goal to draw the Green Archers to within four, 64-68, with 7:08 to go.

But five straight points from Arth Dela Cruz stretched the Red Lions' lead to nine, 73-64, with 6:09 on the clock.

Mbala then stomped his inside presence, scoring six points in succession, while Montalbo added two more for an 8-0 La Salle run to cut the lead to just one, 73-72, with 4:39 remaining.

But seldom-used Michole Sorela delivered in the clutch as he, who had to play extended minutes due to Adeogun and Tankuoa's foul troubles, scored back-to-back jumpers to up the lead anew to five, 77-72, with 3:33 left.

Adeogun then took advantage of Mbala's own foul trouble as Adeogun sealed Mbala down inside for a layup to further increase the cushion to seven with 2:41 remaining.

Mbala kept the Archers afloat with his own layup to chop the lead back to five, 79-74, with 2:28 to go.

After Amer misfired a triple, Jeron Teng drove to the lane and converted a layup while getting fouled.

Teng missed the bonus free throw, but Abu Tratter secured the loose ball and put it back in to draw La Salle to within one, 78-79, with 1:23 remaining.

Dela Cruz, however, scored another perimeter shot to put the lead back to three with 1:13 left.

The San Beda defense then forced Mbala to a turnover in the next play.

Adeogun scored a layup in the ensuing offensive and restored a five-point edge, 83-78, with 46 seconds remaining.

Thomas Torres tried to keep the Archers in the game, but he missed on consecutive three-pointers and Adeogun grabbed the rebound after the second miss.

Adeogun, who has seen improvement on his free throws during the NCAA season, nailed two charities to up the lead to five with 22.7 ticks left.

Teng then badly missed a corner trey, and Adeogun sank two more free throws with 14.1 seconds to go to seal the win for the Red Lions, who now take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three national finals series and are now a win away from becoming the second NCAA team to win the PCCL plum.

Despite hounded by fouls, Adeogun led San Beda with 20 points, nine coming in the last 2:41 of the game, seven rebounds, and two blocks.

Amer added 19 markers on a perfect 8-of-8 free throw shooting clip with seven assists and two steals.

Box Scores:

San Beda 88-Adeogun 20, Amer 19, Sara 15, Dela Cruz 14, Mendoza 8, Sorela 6, Soberano 3, Koga 2, Tankoua 1, Mocon 0, Tongco 0

La Salle 81-Mbala 26, Montalbo 13, Rivero 12, Tratter 10, Teng 9, Torres 8, Salem 3, Bolick 0, Mustre 0

Box Scores: 23-18, 43-37, 61-59, 88-81