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Seven-time defending champion San Beda protected its big lead this time and turned back Arellano University, 102-93, in their do-or-die Final Four match yesterday to arrange a title duel with Mapua in NCAA juniors basketball at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Red Cubs were given a scare in the fourth quarter when their 30-point advantage was reduced to 91-85 on a three-pointer by Marlon Espiritu with 3:40 remaining.
But Robi Nayve hit two free throws, Mark Lagumen had a layup and Prince Etrata knocked down a three-pointer to give San Beda a 98-85 lead, 2:21 left, to virtually clinch its eighth consecutive finals appearance.
Nayve scored 17 points with six rebounds, four assists and two steals while Lagumen added 16 points for the Red Cubs, who will meet the Red Robins in a best-of-three title showdown for the second time in three seasons.
The two teams begin their series tomorrow at the same venue. Mapua booked the first finals seat after beating CSB-La Salle Greenhills, 88-81.
“I hope this game with Arellano would prepare for the finals,” said San Beda coach JV Sison.
Carlo Abadeza finished with 19 points and nine rebounds for Arellano, which saw a lackluster showing from ace guard Guilmer dela Torre.
Dela Torre played just 22 minutes and fouled out late in the fourth with 13 points and four rebounds.
The Braves were hoping to repeat their 89-84 victory over the Red Cubs that forced the decider, but allowed themselves to fall behind early and played catchup the rest of the way.