GUILMER Dela Torre scored 20 points including the marginal free throws as Arellano defeated College of Saint Benilde-La Salle Greenhills, 75-74, on Friday to advance to the stepladder playoffs of the NCAA Season 91 juniors basketball at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Dela Torre's two free throws with 41.7 seconds left proved the game winner as the Braves earned the right to play Mapua in a knockout game for a berth in the finals opposite unbeaten San Beda, which will have a thrice-to-beat advantage in the championship round.
Ricci Rivero had 31 points for the Junior Blazers, also known as the Greenies, but was left in tears following the final match of an impressive high school career.
Before Dela Torre’s free throws, Rivero had hit back-to-back baskets to give the Greenies the lead at 74-73.
Arellano coach Tylon Darjuan said they used their two losses to the Greenies in the eliminations as motivation.
“Sabi ko sa kanila simula pa lang ng practice, tinalo tayo ng dalawang beses sa elimination. Pagdating sa Final Four, back to zero na. Kung sino ang matibay ang puso ang mananalo," he said.
“Hindi mananalo ang isang player sa team,” Darjuan added.
Lars Sunga had 14 points while former La Salle Greenhills cager Carlo Abadeza had 12 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks for the Braves.
Abadeza also made a great defensive effort as he deflected Luis Velasco’s final attempt before the buzzer.
Arellano (75) — Dela Torre 20, Sunga 14, Abadeza 12, Espiritu 7, Danas 7, Bataller 6, Fornis 4, Tamayo 3, Calapine 2.
CSB-LSGH (74) — Rivero 31, Velasco 10, Pagulayan 9, Manuel 9, Madrigal 8, Herrera 5, Ollano 2, Pedrosa 0, Boo 0.
Quarterscores: 15-20, 40-43, 61-61, 75-74.