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Red Lions open title defense with close win over Altas


San Beda kept its composure in the fourth quarter as it edged upset-conscious Perpetual Help, 67-65, to jumpstart its three-peat feat bid in the 94th NCAA basketball tournament before a sea of mostly maroon at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.

Robert Bolick led his team with 15 points including eight of eight from the foul line and had a crucial steal late in the game while Jayvee Mocon and last year’s Finals MVP Donald Tankoua added 14 and 12 points, respectively, to help seal the Lions the win.

“The first game is always the toughest because of the euphoria and the jitters,” said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez.

In a match San Beda was expected to dominate, the Lions came out struggling as they missed 37 of the 58 shots they attempted from the field and 10 of the 32 free throws they took.

Bolick struggled the most as he misfired on 11 of the 14 he attempted.

Thankfully, Bolick hit all his eight free throws and intercepted an Edgar Charcos pass to Nigerian Prince Eze in the final play to seal the deal.

“I need more practice,” said Bolick, who is playing his final season before he enters the PBA draft this year.

New Perpetual Help coach Frankie Lim, who steered San Beda to four championships more than a decade ago, made a good account of himself as made the Altas looked a lethal team despite having only four remnants from last year’s team.

“I told my players that playing against coach Frankie is tough,” said Fernandez.

The diminutive Charcos, a rookie transferee out of University of the East, shone the brightest for the Las Pinas-based school as he fired 14 points including two booming triples in the fourth quarter that gave his team a 57-55 lead with less than four minutes to go.

But Nigerian Toba Eugene, who made his very first NCAA appearance, banked in a three-pointer from the right flank that gave back the lead San Beda, which nursed it until the end to preserve the triumph.

Charcos turned potential hero to goat when he turned over the ball in the dying seconds when Perpetual Help was just trialing by two points after San Beda’s Jose Mari Presbitero muffed a pair of charities.

The box scores:

San Beda 67 – Bolick 15, Mocon 14, Tankoua 12, Eugene 8, Soberano 6, Abuda 3, Kwekuteye 3, Presbitero 2, Doliguez 2, Cabanag 2, Oftana 0, Tongco 0, Nelle 0, Carino 0, Cuntapay 0

Perpetual Help 65 – Charcos 14, Eze 13, Coronel 13, Razon 10, Aurin 8, Peralta 7, Mangalino 0, Cuevas 0, Tamayo 0, Pasia 0

Quarterscores: 13-10, 23-23, 44-40, 67-65