COLLEGE of St. Benilde pulled off a win that it hopes would represent a change of fortune for the hard-luck Blazers.
For so long the NCAA's 'Heartbreak Kids,' the Blazers savored the "championship feeling" after stunning defending champion San Beda, 83-76, on Monday to sustain their resurgence in the men’s basketball tournament before a stunned crowd at The Arena in San Juan.
Mark Romero, Paolo Taha, and Jonathan Grey all came through for the Blazers, but it was the team's suffocating defense that set the stage for the biggest reversal of the season so far as the defensive-minded Red Lions got a dose of their own medicine.
The Blazers dealt the Lions their first loss in six starts season while atoning for a heartbreak loss to this same team last year — a loss that unfortunately started a run of near-misses that earned them the unwanted label as the league's 'Heartbreak Kids.'
This season, Blazers notched a third straight victory to improve to an even 3-3 win-loss card. More importantly, the win felt like a "championship" for the league minnows.
“Any team that beats San Beda would feel like just winning a championship,” Blazers coach Gabby Velasco said. “The challenge was there and everyone accepted it.”
Indeed, the Blazers came prepared and from the get-go they stood toe to toe with the five-peat-seeking Lions in a game that saw 12 lead changes and eight deadlocks.
It was the Blazers’ full-court trap spelled the difference, forcing the Lions to 22 errors that translated into 23 turnover points and 20 fast-break point for the victors.
Romero, the leader of the Blazers’ triple threat, was on the finishing end of most of the Blazers’ transition plays as the versatile forward scattered 12 of his game-high 20 points in the payoff period.
So effective was the Lions’ defense that Ola Adeogun failed to get his touches in the crucial stage. Still, the Nigerian slotman registered 15 points and 13 boards in 34 minutes as he was free from foul trouble this time.
The Lions last tied the game at 71 after a triple by Ryusei Koga with three minutes and 29 seconds to go, before the Blazers put the game to bed with eight unanswered points—six from Romero—in the next two minutes.
CSB 83 – Romero 20, Taha 16, Grey 15, Bartolo 9, Nayve 7, Ongteco 6, Argamino 5, Altamirano 3, Sinco 2, Jonson 0, Saavedra 0, Mercado 0
SBC 76 – Amer 18, Adeogun 15, Dela Cruz 15, Koga 13, A. Semerad 8, Pascual 6, D. Semerad 1, Cabanag 0, Mendoza 0, Mocon 0, Sara 0, Tongco 0, Sorela 0
Quarterscores: 25-23, 37-37, 53-55, 83-76