MANILA, Philippines—For the first time in his career, San Beda’s Jacob Cortez played at Mall of Asia Arena and had quite the debut on Tuesday.
Under the bright lights of the NCAA Final Four, Cortez dazzled with a career-high 28 points to keep the Red Lions’ season alive.
What led to his best game to date was his dad’s advice on how to approach the game.
“No pressure. Like my dad always tells me, ‘play, have fun and just play your game.’ I got no pressure at all,” said the sweet-shooting guard after anchoring San Beda’s rout over Lyceum, 89-68, that forced a knockout for the last finals berth.
“Of course, I’m happy because we’re still alive but 1701194450 we’re focused on our next game which is a do-or-die. They’ll make adjustments, we’re going to make adjustments so it was important that we were focused today.”
Cortez’s heroics pushed San Beda’s win streak to five while also helping the Red Lions move a game away from their first finals appearance since 2019.
“Jacob knows how to play. I’m letting him be. He knows how to pick his spots. Whatever the defense is giving him, he’s going to take. He knows the reads. I trust him on that. His teammates trust him to make the right, simple and easiest decisions,” said coach Yuri Escueta.
Cortez, who’s dubbed as “The Cool Cub,” a play on his dad’s “Cool Cat” moniker during his playing days, also shared credited his teammates
With the Red Lions’ confidence in Cortez, the latter was given more room to perform on a different level.
“This isn’t just me. Nygel (Gonzales) and Yuks (Andrada) had a good game so it’s not just me. I feel like if we focus on just myself, it’ll be a disadvantage because my teammates’ confidence in me is high as well. I think that also played a big role in my game.”
Enoch Valdez, who played on the other end of the court for the Pirates, was even in awe of Cortez’s scoring display.
“I really didn’t know what happened, then all of a sudden he scored 28. We’re really not going to win that way because he’s the one we should stop,” said Valdez.
Cortez will be tested anew on Friday when San Beda faces Lyceum one more time in a do-or-die duel at Araneta Coliseum with the winner taking on top seed Mapua in a best-of-three final.
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