ROBERT Bolick proved again to be a big-time player in the biggest stage.
San Beda turned to Bolick in the final two minutes to deal Lyceum of the Philippines its first loss of the season, 94-87, and move on the cusp of a record 21st championship in the NCAA seniors basketball tournament yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With the Red Lions clinging to a slim 83-82 advantage, Bolick took over, scoring eight consecutive points to pad their lead to 91-82, with 35 seconds left.
But the Pirates did not just simply roll over and die, as Cameroonian Mike Nzeusseu hit an undergoal stab and season MVP CJ Perez completed a three-point play to cut the deficit to 87-91.
Time, however, was not on LPU’s side as Bolick and Davon Potts nailed three free throws in the final 15.7 seconds for San Beda to snatch the opener.
The Red Lions go for the jugular in Game 2 on Thursday at the Big Dome, but coach Boyet Fernandez knows that the Pirates, who jumped straight to the title round via a 18-0 elimination round sweep, remained as a fancied team.
“Yes. We just won Game 1. We are still underdogs. They are still the favorites. They (LPU) are 18-1. We are 17-2,” said Fernandez.
“Today, we proved ourselves na kaya pala naming manalo. Pero hindi pa tapos ang laban,” he added.
Donald Tankoua won over his compatriot Nzeusseu in the battle in the paint with 27 points and 20 rebounds, Bolick matched his career-high 24 points while Potts added 15 markers for San Beda.
Perez came through with 25 points, eight rebounds and two assists while Nzeusseu added 14 points and eight boards for the Pirates.
“We really lost to a better team,” said a humbled LPU coach Topex Robinson. “I’m sorry. It’s my fault. I’ll be a better coach the next game.”
By powering the Pirates to their first-ever championship appearance, Perez bagged the league’s highest individual award in the ceremonies before the game.
“Reward lang para sa hard work namin,” said Perez, who averaged 19.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per contest on his successful return in the league.
Joining Perez in the Mythical Team are University of Perpetual Help System Dalta’s Prince Eze, San Beda’s Javee Mocon, LPU’s Nzeusseu and Emilio Aguinaldo College’s Sidney Onwubere.
LPU’s Jaycee Marcelino was named the Rookie of the Year, while Jose Rizal University’s Jed Mendoza and Eze took home the Most Improved and Best Defensive Player award, respectively.
In the juniors basketball Finals, Joel Cagulangan had 17 points and eight rebounds while Joshua David also scored 17 points and pulled down 14 rebounds as CSB-La Salle Greenhills turned back Mapua, 84-78, to move on the cusp of winning the championship.
The Greenies, who stayed perfect in four playoffs, go for the jugular in Game 2 slated at 1 p.m. on Thursday.
Season MVP Will Gozum had a double-double effort of 16 points and 19 rebounds to lead the Red Robins’ charge.
SBC (94) -- Tankoua 27, Bolick 24, Potts 15, Mocon 11, Soberano 9, Tongco 4, Doliguez 2, Noah 2, Abuda 0, Presbitero 0, Adamos 0.
LPU (87) -- Perez 25, Nzeusseu 14, Ayaay 11, Caduyac 9, Marcelino JV. 8, Marcelino JC. 6, Ibañez 6, Santos 5, Pretta 3, Serrano 0, Baltazar 0.
Quarterscores: 22-21, 45-50, 64-64, 94-87.