St. Benilde Blazers recover from slow start to down Lyceum Pirates and gain share of third

COLLEGE of St. Benilde pounced on a Lyceum side without its head coach as it scored a 74-66 win on Wednesday to strengthen its semifinal chances in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.

Behind a stifling defense, the Blazers overhauled an early deficit then built their own lead which they never relinquished against the Pirates, who missed the presence of coach Bonnie Tan due to a skin allergy.  

“I wasn’t happy with the way we were defending, but good thing we tightened in the second half,” Blazers coach Gabby Velasco said.

Kia draft picks Paolo Taha and Mark Romero led the charge for the Blazers, who hiked their win-loss record to 7-4 to join University of Perpetual Help in third spot.

The Pirates fell below the .500 mark with a sixth loss in 11 games.

Tan was actually on his way to the venue when his allergy acted up, forcing him to be rushed to the hospital for a checkup.

But the development seemed to hardly affect the Pirates, temporarily handled by assistant coach Paolo Tiongco, as they managed to erect a six-point cushion at the end of the first quarter.

Joseph Gabayni spearheaded the stand, collecting, in all, an impressive 20 rebounds, on top of 11 points, although the rookie big man scored just two points in the second half, where the Blazers started to pull away.

Taha, the 29th overall pick in this year’s PBA draft, pumped in 26 points, including 19 in the second half, along with nine boards, and three assists, while Romero, the second to the last pick of this year’s draft, contributed 18 markers, three boards, and two steals.


The scores:

CSB 74 – Taha 26, Romero 18, Grey 13, Sinco 4, Jonson 3, Bartolo 3, Ongteco 3, Nayve 2, Saavedra 2, Pajarillaga 0, Altamirano 0

LPU 66 – Baltazar 17, Mbida 15, Gabayni 11, Taladua 8, Zamora 6, Bulawan 4, Lesmoras 3, Malabanan 2, Maconocido 0

Quarterscores: 22-28, 36-38, 55-54, 74-66

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos