JACOB CORTEZ brought his fierce form back on Sunday as San Beda University foiled a Mapua celebration via a 71-65 Game 2 victory in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 99 seniors basketball finals at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Before a packed arena of 22,465 rabid fans from both sides, Cortez made sure he won’t disappoint this time and scored 21 points—including two cold-blooded triples in the fourth quarter that turned things around in the Red Lions’ favor.
“That kid’s special, he doesn’t want to lose,” said San Beda coach Yuri Escueta of the 21-year-old son of former Philippine Basketball Association and collegiate star Mike Cortez.
It was San Beda’s first win over Mapua after three losses this season—including a 68-63 defeat in Game 1 last Wednesday.
Game 3 is set Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“One more week before Game 3 and we want to bring the same intensity,” Escueta said. “The only thing we did and told ourselves is to stay together, no surrender.”
For Cortez, who missed nine free throws for a measly 12 points in Game 1, it was a collective team effort.
“It’s not just me, the other guys stepped up as well, not just offensively but defensively, it’s about sticking together as a team,” said Cortez, who also had nine rebounds, three assists and two steals Sunday.
San Beda’s victory spoiled Mapua’s Clint Escamis, who was named the season’s Most Valuable Player and top rookie during the individual awards ceremony before Game 3.
Escamis scored sorely on a 4-of-21 average but still led Mapua with 15 points with nine rebounds and four assists in Game 2.
College of Saint Benilde, meanwhile, claimed third place with a 93-83 victory over Lyceum of the Philippines University earlier on Sunday.
It marked the first time that the NCAA held a battle for third place.
Robi Nayve had 18 points, Josh Cajucom scattered 15 and Miguel Corteza finished with 14 points for the Blazers.
Mclaude Guadana scored 16 points and Alvin Penafiel added 15 points for the Pirates.
Image credits: Rudy Esperas