MANILA, Philippines - San Sebastian leaned on its fearsome troika of Ronald Pascual, Calvin Abueva and Ian Sangalang again as it repulsed a stubborn Lyceum side, 87-79, to stretch its win run to four in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City yesterday.
Pascual exploded with a season-best 32 points highlighted by eight triples, another season-high, while Abueva, the reigning MVP, put in a triple-double job of 16 points, 23 rebounds and 10 assists in another explosive stint he spiked with four shot blocks and a steal.
The 6-6 Sangalang, on the other hand, was just as impressive, scoring 20 points and hauling down 16 rebound to keep the Stags’ streak following a 74-80 opening day loss to the Letran Knights.
“I tried to carve some of the minutes off my Big 3 but I was forced to keep them in the game because it was a close contest,” said San Sebastian coach Topex Robinson.
Jose Rizal edged Perpetual Help, 64-59, to join defending champion San Beda and last year’s runner-up San Sebastian at the helm on 4-1 (win-loss) slates.
The Altas fell to their second defeat against four wins.
Truly, the Stags needed strong games from the troika, particularly Pascual, who took charge in the fourth with a 12-point effort, including three consecutive triples midway in the quarter that turned a 69-73 deficit to a 78-73 lead.
Pascual’s scoring spree broke the season’s scoring records of total points in a game previously set by Jose Rizal’s Nate Matute and Letran’s Kevin Alas with 31 points and triples made in a game by Matute (seven).
Pascual, however, hit 21 attempts from beyond the arc.
“I told him I’d rather see him miss than not shoot because we would need his shooting for us to have a chance this season,” said Robinson.
While Pascual provided the clutch shots, Abueva turned in another superb all-around game by posting his second triple-double effort in the season. He also made 15 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists in an 80-65 win over Perpetual Help last July 2.
The game also saw the two teams commit a combined six technical or flagrant fouls, a league high.
Hot-shooting Chris Cayabyab and Shane Ko each fired 20 points for the Pirates, who sparked hopes of a big upset when they seized a 73-69 lead with over five minutes remaining.
But Pascual took over and bailed the Stags out of trouble.
Earlier, San Sebastian overpowered a listless Lyceum side, 136-15, to seize a share of the lead with three-peat juniors champion San Beda with five wins apiece.
The loss by the Junior Pirates was their second worst since absorbing a 14-171 rout at the hands of the Red Cubs.
Lyceum, which fell to its seventh straight defeat, was held scoreless in the fourth period after going 0-43 against San Beda.
In the other juniors game, Edmar Grande scored on a layup with a fraction of a second to go to lift Jose Rizal to a pulsating 89-87 win over Perpetual Help.
The Light Bombers bucked the ejection of Darrel Custodio with a minute to go following a disqualification foul and a technical foul slapped on their coach, Nat Gregorio, to escape with their second win against three losses.
The Junior Altas fell to their fourth defeat against a win.
Meanwhile, the NCAA will hold its first ever out-of-town games as Letran faces off with Emilio Aguinaldo at 1 p.m. and St. Benilde squares off with Arellano U at 3 p.m. tomorrow at the San Luis Sports Complex in Sta. Cruz, Laguna. - By Joey Villar