The San Beda Red Lions are an earshot away from reclaiming their throne after benefiting from Jiovanni Jalalon’s last-second decision to let someone else take the winning shot.
That decision and a go-ahead layup by Robert Bolick in an earlier possession, allowed the Red Lions to survive the Chiefs, 88-85, last night in a thrilling opening act to the best-of-three finals of the NCAA basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
San Beda took the lead for good at 86-85 when Bolick scored a transition layup with 1:12 remaining. But the Red Lions and their screaming supporters had to survive Jalalon’s final chance at saving the Chiefs from the jaws of defeat.
Fortunately for the Red Lions, Jalalon opted to pass the ball to an open Dioncee Holts as he drove the lane in the final seconds. But Holts failed to convert the jumper from the left side, much to the relief of San Beda coach Jamike Jarin and his players.
The ending put San Beda one victory shy of securing its ninth title in 11 seasons and erasing the bitter memory of last season’s stunning defeat to archrival Letran.
“You always want to take the opening game but its a series,” said Jarin.