Marinerong Pilipino-San Beda clinches D-League finals berth, ousts Wangs-Letran in decider

James Payosing played his best preseason game so far to lead the Red Lions to the D-League finals. PBA Images
By John Rhey Piamonte

PASIG—Marinerong Pilipino-San Beda displayed a roaring showcase of dominance that routed arch-rival Wangs Basketball Strikers-Letran in a decisive 79-65 victory and advanced to the finals of the 2023 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup. 

Playing like a pride of hungry lions, San Beda banked on a rousing start and never looked back from there, demolishing Letran, on a rainy Thursday afternoon at the Ynares Sports Arena. 

Guard James Payosing spearheaded the Red Lions after chipping in a game-high 23 points, nine boards, three assists, and one steal. 

"Lesson learned na 'yong nangyari sa amin sa Game 1. Consistency and 'yong focus talaga sa depensa ang naging focal points namin heading into this game," Payosing said. 

San Beda started the game in a scintillating fashion as the trio of Payosing, Cliff Jopia, and Damie Cuntapay provided the spark right off the bat, 22-12 at the end of the first quarter. 

The Yuri Escueta-led squad then went on a 14-0 scoring barrage that dismantled Letran, mounting the biggest lead of the match at 43-22.

Cuntapay finished with 11 points, nine rebounds, and two assists across his name. Jopia and big man Yukien Andrada also added seven and 10 for San Beda. 

Knights forward Neil Guarino went on a 5-0 personal run to cut the lead of the Red Lions into single digits, 59-50 but San Beda quickly regained momentum after a string of defensive stops that sealed the game.

Red Lions dialed in 20 points off the Knights' turnovers. They also barged in with 42 points in the paint compared to the 18 of the Knights.

"Syempre gusto naming mabigay tong championship na 'to sa Beda pero alam namin hindi magiging madali, playing againts La Salle," Red Lions head coach Escueta uttered.

San Beda will now face defending champions EcoOil-La Salle in a best-of-three Finals that will start next Thursday also at the Ynares Sports Arena.

Follow him on Twitter: @rhey_piamonte