The hoop gods finally smiled on College of St. Benilde.
Finally brandishing the killer’s instinct that had been missing in their first five games, the Blazers got over the hump in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Thursday following a 75-69 victory over a relentless Lyceum side at The Arena in San Juan.
Fons Saavedra, Paolo Taha, Mark Romero, and Jonathan Grey shone as the Blazers registered their first victory after starting the season with five straight losses - all of them by close margins.
“The monkey’s off our backs,” a relieved Blazers coach Gabby Velasco said. “But it wasn’t easy for us. There were scary moments toward the end.”
For a while, though, it looked like the misery would continue as the Blazers almost saw a huge double-digit lead vanish after the Pirates’ furious fightback down the stretch behind a small lineup led by Dexter Zamora and Mark Francisco.
Francisco fired nine of his 11 points in the fourth, while Zamora buried crucial free throws as the Pirates closed the payoff period with a scintillating 20-5 scoring salvo to climb from a 49-70 hole with halfway through the quarter.
“A lot of things went through my mind (during the Pirates’ rally). It might be another heart-breaking loss, but fortunately we held our ground.”
The Pirates’ rally, however, fell short as they dropped their fourth game against two wins.
The thrilling match went chippy after the final buzzer sounded as Zamora and the Blazers’ RJ Argamino were involved in a scuffle that caused a commotion between the two teams.
CSB (75) – Saavedra 14, Taha 13, Romero 12, Grey 10, Ongteco 9, Garcia 5, Bartolo 4, Argamino 4, Jonson 3, Sinco 1
LPU (69) – Mbomiko 13, Ko 12, Mendoza 11, Francisco 11, Zamora 10, Lesmoras 8, Baltazar 3, Azores 1, Soliman 0, Evangelista 0, Taladua 0, Alanes 0, Ambohot 0, Garcia 0
Quarterscores: 19-10, 39-28, 60-46, 75-69