NCAA: Stags turn back Red Lions

With Alaska’s coaching staff watching intently from the stands, pro-bound Calvin Abueva and Ronald Pascual gamely put on an awe-inspiring show Monday night.

The six-foot-three Abueva flashed his usual dominant form while fellow Kapampangan Pascual shot the lights out as San Sebastian College turned back a gutsy San Beda side, 80-71, to gain a share of the lead in the 88th NCAA Seniors basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.

Abueva, the league’s reigning MVP, dished out a monstrous game of 21 points, as many boards and nine assists while Pascual, a sweet-shooting forward, torched the Red Lions with 16 of his 28 points in the first canto.

The big victory enabled the Golden Stags to recover from a stunning 54-61 setback slapped by Mapua last Aug. 6 and forge a two-way tie for the lead with Jose Rizal University with identical 7-2 marks.

The two-time defending champions Red Lions, who went into the game armed with a four-game winning run, managed to recover from a nightmarish start with a strong third-quarter fightback but still came up short in the crunch, falling to their second loss in eight starts.

With Pascual hitting his full stride from beyond the arc early on, the Golden Stags pulled away from a precarious 12-11 lead with a telling 20-4 onslaught to post a whopping 32-15 after the first 10 minutes.

A converted baseline jumper by Maiquez gave San Sebastian its biggest lead at 44-22 but San Beda employed a suffocating full-court pressure that ignited its 9-2 counterattack, trimming the deficit to just 31-46 at the break.

As the Stags started to cool off offensively in the third, the Red Lions pounced on, coming back from 13 points down (44-57) with a 14-2 run that pulled them within 58-59, setting up another wild wind-up.

But the Stags just wouldn’t be denied, especially with Abueva and Pascual leading the way.

Settling down, the Stags recovered their bearings with a 7-2 run to start the fourth for a 66-60 spread.

After San Beda import Ola Adeogun fouled out at 5:33 mark of the fourth, Abueva took full control in the paint while Pascual drained two triples, sparking the Stags’ decisive 14-2 finishing kick that stretched their lead to 80-62.

The Red Lions tried hard to come back with nine consecutive points but they ran out of time.

Guard Anjo Caram collected 17 points while Baser Amer added 14 in a losing cause for San Beda.

Earlier, Jose Rizal University closed out its first-round outing on a resounding note by defeating host Letran 101-83 behind the hot-hands of Byron Villarias.

Villarias exploded for a career-best 29 points on top of three boards, as many steals and two assists, enough to help the Heavy Bombers tie the Stags atop the standings.

Nate Matute, still smarting from a horrendous 0-of-13 in the Heavy Bombers’ numbing 37-62 defeat inflicted by San Beda, regained his shooting touch with 25 markers.

Ace playmaker Kevin Alas sizzled for 31 markers–his second 30-point output this season–but failed to get needed support as the Knights saw their three-game winning run snap and dropped to 4-4.

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