EMILIO Aguinaldo pounced on the late lapses of College of St. Benilde to score a come-from-behind 73-72 victory on Thursday in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Cameroonian import Cedric Happi and point guard John Tayongtong made two crucial defensive plays down the stretch, before the latter iced the game with the marginal free throw as the Generals rallied from a late double-digit deficit with a 15-2 blast to avoid going winless in their first three games of the season.
The Blazers wasted a 70-58 lead midway through the fourth quarter and suffered a second straight loss, ending up as the only winless squad in the league.
“One thing na very clear na ginawa ng mga bata ay resiliency. They refused to give up,” said Generals coach Gerry Esplana, whose wards lost to University of Perpetual Help and Letran in their first two games.
Happi, nursing a sprained medial collateral ligament on his right knee, snatched the ball away from Mark Romero before drawing a foul from the Blazers star and splitting his charities to tie the game.
Tayongtong then stole the ball from Luis Sinco in the Blazers’ next offensive possession, before getting hacked by Paolo Taha. The playmaker from Cagayan de Oro missed his first free throw before making the second to secure the victory.
Tayongtong finished with a team-high 16 points with five rebounds and three assists, while Happi chipped in a double-double of 14 points and 17 rebounds with two steals.
“Just like wounded tigers na nakita mo yung mga anchor mo na na-injury, the more tumaas yung morale, motivation, and aggressiveness nila,” Esplana said.
Emilio Aguinaldo (73) - Tayongtong 16, King 16, Happi 14, Jamon 13, Paguia 8, Arquero 4, Castro 2, Hiola 0, Munsayac 0, Morada 0.
St. Benilde (72) - Taha 17, Romero 16, Sinco 14, Ongteco 9, Grey 8, Deles 4, Bartolo 2, Carlos 2, Jonson 0, Saavedra 0, Garcia 0.
Quarterscores: 27-16; 31-38; 57-61; 73-72.