GIVEN a glimmer of hope, San Sebastian’s Bobby Balucanag made a contested layup that would’ve sent the NCAA men’s basketball tournament game against Letran into overtime.
But after a review of the play, the Stags’ bruiser could only shake his head as the officials waived the basket for failing to beat the buzzer.
The misery continued for the Stags as they allowed the Knights to escape with a 75-73 victory on Monday night at The Arena in San Juan.
The hard-luck Stags reeled to their 10th straight setback and 11th overall in 14 games to remain stuck at the bottom, while the Knights won for the fourth time in five games and sixth in all against seven losses to stay in the Final Four hunt.
“We’re just keeping our hopes alive,” said Knights coach Caloy Garcia, whose team is still two and a half games behind fifth-running Perpetual Help with only four games to go. “Our fate is not in our hands anymore.”
Kevin Racal once again stood at the forefront of the attack, tallying 20 points, three boards, two assists, two steals, and one block, while Mark Cruz added 17 points, six assists, and four rebounds for the Knights, who had to weather a late stand by the Stags.
Bradwyn Guinto registered 16 points and 15 boards, and spearheaded the Stags’ rally by scoring half of his scoring output within the last four minutes as the sophomore big man took over when CJ Perez went down with a back injury midway through the final frame.
Jovit dela Cruz conspired with Guinto, scoring four straight points that nudged the Stags to within two, before Letran’s Rey Nambatac missed two free throws that set the stage for the potential Balucanag heroics, which proved just a bit late.
Perez carried the fight earlier for the Stags, finishing with 22 points, anchored on four triples, six boards, four assists, two blocks, and a steal.
CSJL (75) -- Racal 20, Cruz 17, Tambeling 13, Gabawan 9, Publico 6, Nambatac 5, Saldua 3, Ruaya 2, Calvo 0, Dela Pena 0, Quinto 0, Singontiko 0.
SSC (73) -- Perez 22, Dela Cruz 16, Guinto 16, Balucanag 6, Yong 6, Pretta 3, Ortuoste 2, Santos 2, Camasura 0, Calisaan 0, Fabian 0, Costelo 0.
Quarterscores: 20-24; 39-31; 58-54; 75-73.