By Jerome Lagunzad
As he got up on his seat following a lengthy post-game interview inside the Smart-Araneta Coliseum press room, San Beda ace guard Robert Bolick picked up the Finals MVP trophy placed in front of him.
But Bolick’s Cameroonian teammate Donald Tankoua held him back. “Hey! That’s mine,” said the 6-foot-7 big man in jest, perhaps putting utmost importance to his first-ever silverware after helping San Beda retain its crown via a two-game sweep of top-seeded Lyceum in the 93rd NCAA seniors basketball finals last Thursday night.
There’s only little argument – if any – that the 6-foot-1 Bolick also deserves to be named as the Finals MVP following back-to-back clutch performances that gave him the last laugh after being disqualified from the highest individual award won by Pirates counterpart CJ Perez.
The former La Salle benchwarmer continued his bold transformation to a certified go-to-guy as he once again stood tall in San Beda’s strong finish in Game 2, pumping in seven in their blinding 19-6 closeout highlighted by a booming pull-up triple over Lyceum center Mike Nzeusseu that gave them an 89-82 lead with under a minute left.
In all, Bolick finished with a team-high 18 points on top of six assists and five rebounds and averaged 21 points, 4.5 rebounds and four assists, good for 72 statistical points, in the Red Lions’ impressive two-game sweep of the Pirates.
However, those numbers, expect for the points, paled in comparison to the dominant production of the 6-foot-7 Tankoua, who averaged 22 points and 18.5 rebounds, good for 122 statistical points.
But Bolick said he doesn’t mind coming up empty-handed in terms of the individual award in his second finals appearance after putting the clamps down on former Arellano star and current Star Hotshots rookie Jio Jalalon in the Red Lions’ similar two-game conquest of the Chiefs last year.
“Credit to Donald. He deserves this MVP,” he said of their prized center who continued to make a steady recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament injury he sustained midway through the elimination round last year.
“I told him, last year pa, that he’s the best import. He showed it this year that he is one of the best. Nobody else deserves it but him.”
But Bolick should be given a lot of credit too for playing his heart out in the most crucial stages where he simply outshone the 6-foot-1 Perez, proving he’s a man of his words especially to San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez.
“Noong natalo kami two times (against Lyceum in the eliminations), nag-team building kami. I said to him that he’s going to have to trust us,” shared Bolick.
“Because for me, I think the only thing that makabawi ako kay Coach Boyet for everything he’s done—playing time, lahat ng plays, giving me the chance to play here in San Beda. I had to repay him with a championship. I always tell him, ‘I got you.’”
And boy, Bolick surely got Fernandez’s back.