LETRAN denied College of St. Benilde a chance for a return to the Final Four as it scored a 64-57 victory on Wednesday in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Already out of the playoff picture, the Knights lived up to being a spoiler and the Blazers with them outside the semifinal circle.
The Knights, who will miss the Final Four for the first time since 2010, finished the season on a positive note with an even 9-9 win-loss card.
The Blazers, who entered the match hoping to force playoff for a semifinal spot, suffered their seventh loss in 18 games.
“It’s how we end the season,” Knights coach Caloy Garcia said. “It’s better to finish the season with a win against a team that needs a win.”
The development also avoided complications and completed the Final Four cast, with Perpetual Help advancing to the next round, joining Arellano, San Beda, and Jose Rizal University. The Altas still face the Bombers for the third spot.
Senior forwards Ford Ruaya and Jamil Gabawan delivered in their last game for the Knights, who led from start to finish, before withstanding a late rally by the Blazers.
Ruaya fired a team-high 14 points, including one his two triples that gave the Knights their biggest lead at 37-20 with three minutes and 28 seconds to go before halftime.
But the Blazers, seeking a first postseason berth in more than a decade or since 2002, mounted on a late fightback in the second half.
Mark Romero, who scored a game-high 20 points, put the Blazers within two, 59-57, after making two free throws with 2:42 remaining in the game, but the Taft-based dribblers went scores after that.
CSJL 64 – Ruaya 14, Gabawan 13, Publico 9, Cruz 8, Nambatac 8, Saldua 6, Calvo 4, Apreku 2, Tambeling 0, Luib 0, Quinto 0, Singontiko 0
CSB 57 – Romero 20, Taha 12, Grey 9, Sinco 5, Bartolo 4, Saavedra 3, Ongteco 3, Nayve 1, Argamino 0, Altramirano 0
Quaterscores: 26-12, 41-27, 53-44, 64-57