ST. Benilde scrapped its way to a tough 71-67 victory over Mapua to have its best start of the decade Thursday in the NCAA Season 95 seniors basketball tournament in a hostile Mapua Gym in Intramuros.
Edward Dixon canned the game-sealing freebies with 1.3 seconds left to put an end in this emotionally-charged duel, which almost saw tensions rise in the final minute after Noah Lugo undercut a driving Gutang.
"I like the way we play in terms of our grit and grind throughout the game," said coach TY Tang, as St. Benilde nabbed its third straight win for the school's best start since 2005, since players like Jeff Morial, Jay Sagad, and Paolo Orbeta were still wearing the green-and-white.
"It's a hostile environment out here, so kailangan lang cooler heads will prevail."
Dixon snared eight points, 11 rebounds, and four assists in the win, which was their first road triumph in three years.
Gutang pumped 12 points, five rebounds, and three assists for St. Benilde, but exited the game with 3.2 seconds left after suffering an apparent left knee injury.
His three-point play gave the Blazers a 69-62 lead in the final 36.2 ticks, but Laurenz Victoria, Adrian Nocum, and Lugo helped the Cardinals close in within two, 69-67, with 3.2 seconds left.
But Dixon quashed those hopes, receiving an inbounds pass from Carlo Young and drained the game-icing charities for St. Benilde.
Jimboy Pasturan also collected 11 points, six boards, and three dimes, while Clement Leutcheu had 11 points and five rebounds in the triumph as the Blazers once again pulled through despite shooting just 35-percent from the field.
Tang, though, still lauded his side for being resolute as the Blazers tied San Beda at the top of the standings at 3-0.
"I think they are more emotional this time around. There's a lot of lessons learned coming from last season. The experience, the maturity, and them playing their roles and responsibilities, they've come to understand deeper," he said.
Arvin Gamboa paced the still winless Mapua with 14 points and three rebounds, while Lugo got 11 points and three boards in the loss.
ST. BENILDE 71 -- Gutang 12, Pasturan 11, Leutcheu 11, Young 9, Dixon 8, Belgica 8, Naboa 4, Flores 4, Carlos 2, Lepalam 2, Velasco 0, Sangco 0.
MAPUA 67 -- Gamboa 14, Lugo 11, Victoria 9, Nocum 7, Bonifacio 6, Bunag 6, Salenga 4, Gonzales 4, Nieles 3, Hernandez 3, Serrano 0, Garcia 0, Aguirre 0, Jabel 0.
Quarters: 13-17, 27-32, 46-49, 71-67.