UNIVERSITY of Perpetual Help leaned on its depth to book the fourth and final spot in the semifinals of the NCAA Season 97 after a 76-64 wire-to-wire win over College of St. Benilde on Wednesday at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan.
Playing without do-it-all forward Kim Aurin, who was out due to chickenpox, the Altas found a huge boost in the form of JP Boral and John Abis who took turns in blasting the Blazers side.
Boral started out hot early, drilling two early threes to set the tone for the Perpetual breakaway as they led by as many as 15 points, 40-25 late in the first half.
The Blazers went on a 12-0 run to the lead to three, 40-37, at the start of the third, but that’s when Abis took over for the Altas, drilling three straight baskets as they retook control of the game and were never threatened since.
“Sobrang blessed, kumbaga di naman namin inakala to e. Una nung start nung [season] 97, wala namang Perpetual na pinaguusapan e,” Perpetual head coach Myke Saguiguit said.
“Chinallenge ko lang young mag bata na, ’pakilala naman tayo kahit papaano at maramdaman naman ng NCAA na kasali tayo.’ Nagrespond naman sila kaya sobrang şarap ng panalo namin. Kundi dahil sa taas, it wouldn’t be possible.”
Five players breached double digits for the Altas led by Abis who scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half to go with five boards and five assists.
Boral, for his part, scored all of his 11 points to lead the early Altas onslaught.
Star guard Jielo Razon bucked a rough shooting night as he finished with a double-double of 13 points, 11 boards and three assists. Jeff Egan also had 13 while Cris Pagaran chipped in 12.
The Altas had to go through three knockout games to get to this position starting with a 63-60 win over the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals last week, before nipping Arellano University, 59-52, in the official start of the play-in on Sunday.
Their prize for threading the needle and making it back to the Final Four for the first time since 2018? A date with the top-seeded Letran Knights who swept the single-round elimination with nine wins.
“Ngayon ko lang naiisip na we’re gonna face Letran. Tinignan ko muna yung outcome nitong game,” Saguiguit said.
“Now Letran, it’s a privilege to play against them, they’re the number one team in the league, walang talo, and it’s gonna be a good experience and opportunity for me and my players playing against them. Is-savor namin yun, i-eenjoy namin yun and hopefully maka-chamba kami.”
JC Collar led the Blazers with 18 points while Will Gozum finished with 13 points and 13 boards but that wasn’t enough as Benilde finished in fifth place for the third straight season.
Perpetual Help 76 - Abis 14, Razon 13, Egan 13, Pagaran 12, Boral 11, Omega 6, Martel 4, Cuevas 2, Sevilla 1, Barcuma 0.
St. Benilde 64 - Cullar 18, Gozum 13, Flores 10, Nayve 8, Corteza 8, Lim 4, Lepalam 2, Marcos 1, Carlos 0, Sangco 0, Publico 0, Mosqueda 0, Davis 0.
Quarterscores: 21-14; 40-32; 59-47;
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