SAN Sebastian emerged on the right end of a nail-biting decision this time, frustrating College of St. Benilde, 74-72, on Friday at The Arena in San Juan to sustain its bright start in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Coming off a close loss to University of Perpetual Help in a game that saw their comeback just fall short, the Golden Stags shrugged off their own meltdown this time to register their third win in four games.
The Blazers mounted a fightback from a late double-digit deficit, but failed to finish off the Stags to unfortunately keep their unenviable tag as the league’s heartbreak kids.
“We have a young team, so I guess we just have to go through this learning curve,” said Stags coach Topex Robinson, who has eight rookies this season—more than half of the squad. “We’re just blessed to get this win.”
It was the Stags veterans that carried the fight as Jovit dela Cruz pumped in 18 points and seven boards and Bradwyn Guinto churned out a double-double of 13 points and 14 caroms for the Stags, who also drew significant support from standout rookie Rhanzelle Yong. The former Staglet chipped in 16 points and eight rebounds.
But last year’s Final Four entrant had to lean on their free throws to preserve the victory after failing to score a field goal down the stretch.
Jonathan Grey led the Blazers’ fightback from 11 points down, scoring on a putback in one stretch and a triple, which cut the lead to just two points, 71-73, with one minute and 27 seconds left.
The lefty wingman, however, missed a potential game-winning trey at the buzzer in a broken play.
Raphael Nayve scored a career-high 13 points, including five in the fourth quarter. But the guard from Davao didn’t see action in the endgame when the Blazers made the run.
After averaging 17.5 points in his first two games, Fons Saavedra was held scoreless in 23 minutes.
SSC 74 – Dela Cruz 18, Yong 16, Perez 15, Guinto 13, Ortuoste 10, Fabian 2, Balucanag 0, Calisaan 0, Costelo 0, Aquino 0
CSB 72 – Romero 17, Nayve 13, Grey 9, Bartolo 8, Taha 7, Jonson 6, Ongteco 6, Sinco 4, Argamino 2, Saavedra 0
Quarterscores: 20-22, 40-38, 63-52, 74-72