JOSE Rizal University survived a brave stand by San Sebastian, hacking out an 82-77 victory on Monday to make its return to the Final Four of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
The Heavy Bombers saw their 23-point lead almost disintegrate, before holding on to finish the regular season with 12 wins in 18 games.
That enabled the Bombers to clinch their first semifinal appearance in three years.
“It’s nice to be back sa Final Four,” Bombers coach Vergel Meneses said. “Credit goes to all the players. They really wanted it.”
Philip Paniamogan led five Bombers in double-figure scoring with 24 points, including the insurance free throws down the stretch, while shining on defense as well with six steals in just 23 minutes.
The Stags suffered a 13th loss in 18 games to end their season and will miss the Final Four for the first time since 2008, but they went down fighting against the Bombers.
The Stags fell in a deep 37-60 hole halfway through the third quarter after two Paniamogan charities awarded when San Sebastian coach Topex Robinson was ejected for continuous complaining.
Instead of leaving them in disarray, the development fired up the Stags, who rallied behind Jamil Ortuoste, CJ Perez, and Ivan Camasura to move to within striking distance late in the payoff period.
Giving the defensive-oriented Bombers a dose of their own medicine, the Stags got to within three points, 76-79, after a Bobby Balucanag free throw with a little over a minute remaining.
Camasura, a transferee from JRU, shone against his former team as he scattered seven of his 13 points in the final frame and could’ve pulled the Stags closer to just a solitary point in the next possession, but his floater was blocked by Razak Abdul Wahab.
Paniamogan knocked down three more charities after that to seal the win.
JRU 82 – Paniamogan 24, Benavides 13, Mabulac 13, Teodoro 10, Asuncion 10, Abdul Wahab 6, Sanchez 3, Grospe 3, Astilla 0, Lasquety 0, Balagtas 0.
SSC 77 – Ortuoste 22, Camasura 13, Perez 13, Guinto 9, Dela Cruz 7, Balucanag 7, Yong 4, Aquino 2, Calisaan 0, Fabian 0, Santos 0.
Quarterscores: 22-11; 37-32; 69-55; 82-77.