A GRIEF-STRICKEN College of St. Benilde continued its climb in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament rankings, scoring a 69-62 victory over Arellano on Monday at The Arena in San Juan.
Mark Romero delivered the key baskets down the stretch, while Paolo Taha and Jonathan Grey provided ample support as the Blazers, mourning the death of athletic director Sonny Alvarez, notched their second straight victory following five straight heartbreaking losses.
Alvarez passed away last August 2 due to stroke. He was 62.
“We dedicated this game to him,” Blazers coach Gabby Velasco said. “And I know it’s superstitious, but don’t know, I feel there were two shots that he helped us with.”
Velasco was referring to a tough layup by Roberto Bartolo that gave the Blazers a 64-55 advantage, and a Romero left-wing triple that doused a late Chiefs’ run and made it 66-61 in favor of St. Benilde.
The Blazers thus dealt the Chiefs their third straight loss and tied their victims in sixth place on 2-5 win-loss cards.
Prince Caperal turned in a solid outing for the Chiefs, missing a 20-20 effort by two rebounds, and firing half of his scoring output in the payoff period where they tried to make a comeback after trailing most of the way.
Ahead by nine after that Bartolo basket, the Blazers committed two straight turnovers that led to six unanswered points by the Chiefs, capped by two charities by Jiovani Jalalon with one minute and 30 seconds remaining.
The Blazers, though, held on after RJ Argamino made two charities and Romero buried three of his team-high 18 points.
Velasco still expressed disappointment with his team’s late-game errors.
“Hopefully, we’ll be mature enough to handle those endgame situations.”
The Chiefs’ loss spoiled the debut of AJ Serjue, the Filipino-Canadian swingman who had been sidelined with an MCL (medial collateral ligament) injury since the summer. He had seven points and five boards in 15 minutes for Arellano.
CSB (69) – Romero 18, Saavedra 12, Taha 12, Grey 12, Argamino 4, Ongteco 4, Sinco 3, Bartolo 2, Garcia 2, Deles 0
AU (62) – Caperal 20, Forrester 10, Serjue 7, Pinto 6, Jalalon 4, Agovida 4, Salcedo 4, Enriquez 3, Nicholls 2, Hernandez 2, Gumaru 0, Bangga 0, Cadavis 0
Quarterscores: 18-17, 35-28, 49-45, 69-62