By Joey Villar (The Philippine Star) |

MANILA, Philippines – Robert Bolick delivered in the clutch while Jio Jalalon faltered as San Beda edged Arellano U, 88-85, in an endgame thriller with the Lions moving in for their 20th NCAA men’s basketball crown before a huge crowd at the MOA Arena in Pasay yesterday.

The 21-year-old Bolick hit two pressure-packed free throws that tied the count at 82 then scored on a lay-up with 27.1 seconds left, giving the Lions the lead for good. He capped his endgame heroics with another pair of charities with 3.7 seconds remaining to seal the Lions’ three-point win.

But it was his defense that made the difference in the scrambling victory as Bolick put the cuffs on Arellano’s top gun Jio Jalalon, who scored 21 points but failed to take charge when it mattered most.

Coming off their last huddle with Arellano down, 85-86, Jalalon took on Bolick but failed to shake off the tough-defending Lion, forcing him to pass on to an open Dioncee Holts, whose jumper just hit the front end of the rim.

Bolick also hauled down 10 rebounds in a game the Lions controlled earlier before the Chiefs charged back late in the third and kept the game close throughout the fourth.

San Beda shoots for its ninth crown in the last 11 seasons and a league-best 20th title overall in Game Two on Tuesday.

A deciding Game Three, if necessary, will be played Thursday.

Arellano, for its part, is looking for its first ever title since joining the league eight years ago.

The Game One setback was the Chiefs’ fourth loss to the Lions this year.

Arellano U mentor Jerry Codiñera, however, remained unfazed.

“We’ve beaten them in the Filoil before the season and also last year so I think it’s possible,” said Codiñera.

The Chiefs looked headed for a big finish as Jalalon set up Lervin Flores for a reverse layup that gave Arellano U an 85-84 lead heading to the last two minutes.

But they failed to neutralize Bolick on the other end and Jalalon sputtered at endgame.

It was redemption of sorts for Bolick, who moved to San Beda after warming the bench with his former team La Salle.

“When he left La Salle, I honestly wanted him though he wasn’t playing much then because he was still young,” said San Beda coach Jamike Jarin of Bolick. .

Bolick said he was elated given the chance to shine.

“I still couldn’t believe that they still accepted me even though I was a bench player when I was in La Salle,” said Bolick.

It turned out the Chiefs’ last as Jalalon failed to come up with a decent shot in the face of Bolick’s tough defense. San Beda 88 – Bolick 24, Adamos 16, Noah 14, Potts 11, Sara 6, Mocon 6, Presbitero 6, Soberano 3, Optana 2, Tongco 0

Arellano 85 – Jalalon 21, Salado 19, Gumaru 10, Holts 8, Meca 7, Nichols 5, Villoria 5, Flores 4, Cadavis 4, Aguilar 2, Enriquez 0, Canete 0

Quarterscores: 28-20, 54-49, 70-69, 88-85