St. Benilde Blazers outduel Arellano Chiefs to bolster Final Four bid
Paolo Taha comes up with a huge double-double of 27 points and 11 rebounds. Dante Peralta

COLLEGE of St. Benilde beat Arellano in its own game, cruising to a 106-97 victory to bolster its Final Four bid in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at The Arena in San Juan.

In a high-scoring duel that seemed to favor the Chiefs—the league’s highest-scoring team, it was the Blazers who ended up with more bullets as they banked on a blistering second half to romp to a ninth victory in 14 games and grab solo fourth spot.

The Blazers also moved just a half-game behind their victims, who missed the presence of pesky playmaker Jiovani Jalalon due to a fever to drop to a tie in second spot with Jose Rizal University.

“It’s very unlikely for us to score a hundred and six points. Parang hindi kami ‘to,” said Blazers coach Gabby Velasco, whose team came in averaging just 74.8 points. "But then we made a lot of three-point shots and they were trying to press us, so we scored layups.”

Paolo Taha was at the scoring end of the Blazers’ press break as the veteran forward registered another all-around performance of 27 points, 11 boards, and six assists, while Mark Romero followed suit with 23 markers, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals, and one block.

Jeffrey Ongteco also provided significant support as the serviceable big man chipped in 19 points and seven boards in 23 minutes.

The Blazers actually had to climb out of an early double-digit hole as the Chiefs came out with guns ablaze at the get-go, leaning on Dioncee Holts inside and Zach Nicholls outside to build a lead that grew to as many as 15 points.

But the Blazers found their mark in the second half with Taha firing 10 in the third canto as Taft-based dribblers closed the gap, before Romero and Ongteco combined for 26 of the team’s 35 points in the final frame to turn the game around.

The loss put to naught the sensational efforts of Holts, who exploded for 31 points and 13 boards, on top of three assists; and Nicholls, who buried seven triples to finish with 23 points in just 22 minutes.


The scores:

CSB 106 – Taha 27, Romero 23, Ongteco 19, Nayve 13, Grey 8, Bartolo 6, Sinco 5, Jonson 3, Pajarillaga 2, Saavedra 0

AU 97 – Holts 31, Nicholls 23, Agovida 14, Hernandez 10, Pinto 9, Ciriacruz 6, Gumaru 2, Enriquez 2, Salcedo 0, Caperal 0, Ortega 0, Cadavis 0

Quarterscores: 20-28, 44-49, 71-71, 106-97 

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