JOHN Tayongtong always seems to rise to the occasion against College of St. Benilde.
The veteran 21-year-old point guard delivered once again on Thursday in the Generals’ 85-83 victory that solidified their Final Four aspirations in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at the Arena in San Juan.
Tayongtong’s steal and free throw sealed Emilio Aguinaldo College’s 73-72 win over the Blazers in the first round.
Unable to find first option Cedric Happi, the right-handed Tayongtong took matters into his own hands, going hard to the hoop and scoring on a lefty layup that broke the tie and turned out to be the marginal basket that gifted the Generals their eighth win in 15 games.
“Maaasahan ko talaga tong batang ’to,” Generals coach Gerry Esplana said of Tayongtong, who sat beside him in the post-game press conference.
The Generals, who have already matched their win total last season when they finished with an 8-10 win-loss record for sixth place, are now just a half-game behind fourth-running San Sebastian.
It was another heartbreaking loss for the Blazers, whose defeats this season have mostly been less than two points. Benilde dropped to 5-8 overall in a tie with Arellano in seventh spot.
Happi shone early on, tallying all but three of his 20 points in the first three quarters of the see-saw affair that saw 11 lead changes and four deadlocks, while Tayongtong registered 17 points, including six in the fourth quarter, on top of five boards and two assists.
Igee King also proved vital in the endgame, scoring nine of his 16 markers in the payoff period.
After Tayongtong’s basket, the Blazers had a chance to tie the game off a timeout, but ran out of time before getting off a shot.
“Although meron kaming crucial miscues, nakabawi kami sa depensa,” Esplana said.
EAC (85) – Happi 20, Tayongtong 17, King 16, Arquero 12, Paguia 7, Jamon 6, Morada 5, Hiole Manga 2, Munsayac 0, Onwubere 0.
CSB (83) – Taha 20, Jonson 13, Romero 13, Grey 12, Bartolo 6, Ongteco 6, Garcia 6, Sinco 5, Saavedra 2, Argamino 0, Carlos 0.
Quarterscores: 12-18; 37-32; 61-59; 85-83.