Defending champion San Beda reasserted its mastery over Emilio Aguinaldo College, 92-69, and clinched a playoff berth in the Final Four of the 88th NCAA basketball tournament yesterday at The Arena in San Juan.
The Red Lions leaned on a massive second-half onslaught to turn a slim 56-53 lead into a 79-57 advantage - thanks to a searing 23-2 run bridging the third and fourth quarters to seal the deal.
It was San Beda's 12th win against two losses to firm up its hold of the lead while pushing EAC on the verge of elimination with a 5-9 mark - the same records of Arellano and Mapua.
With the defeat, EAC, which absorbed an 81-65 defeat to San Beda in the first round, must win its four remaining games to stay alive for at least a playoff for the fourth semis berth.
San Beda was simply sharp that three of its players scored in double figures with Jake Pascual posting 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Arthur Dela Cruz had also some shining moments as gleaned by his 15-point and 11-board output and so was Ola Adeogun who imposed his will inside to finish with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
"This game is a good test for us. We need every preparation we could get for our next games," said San Beda coach Ronnie Magsanoc.
The Lions were so aggressive they led by 19, 44-25, midway in the second quarter through the efforts of Adeogun and Pascual.
But the Generals made their own run, cutting San Beda's lead down to 56-53 at the start of the third that somehow energized the crowd.
In the other game, Letran stunned last year's bridesmaid San Sebastian, 82-67, to fortify its Final Four bid by taking solo fourth place at 9-6.
Kevin Alas shone for 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists before fouling out in the last two minutes as the Knights also claimed their fifth win in their last six games. Jam Cortes added 10 markers and 12 boards, while Raymond Almazan collared 12 rebounds.
The Stags dropped to 11-4 but still held the No. 2 spot.