SAN Sebastian leaned on the clutch play of Jamil Ortuoste as it turned back University of Perpetual Help, 71-65, on Saturday at The Arena in San Juan to move a step closer to the Final Four of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The Golden Stags overhauled a late deficit behind Ortuoste, the unflappable rookie playmaker from Antipolo City, who fired eight of his 19 points in the last two minutes to almost singlehandedly carry the team to its 10th win in 17 games.
Ortuoste capped his one-man salvo with a dagger three-pointer from way beyond the arc over the outstretched arms of Justine Alano and after crossing over original defender Chris Elopre that gave the Stags a two-possession 70-65 lead, which proved enough to clinch the win with 34.7 seconds left.
“Tapang, puso na lang yun,” said Ortuoste, who missed only two of his eight shots and added four rebounds and one assists in 30 minutes.
The 21-year-old rookie had the better of his matchup with fellow standout freshman Juneric Baloria, who had 16 points, but made a paltry 5-of-19 shots from the field in 37 minutes of play. He did have seven rebounds and two blocks.
“We knew how much this game meant to us,” Stags coach Topex Robinson said. “It all boiled down to making stops in the end.”
The victory, which eliminated Arellano (7-9) from contention, assured the Stags of at least a playoff for the last Final Four spot to be disputed if they ended up tied with Emilio Aguinaldo College, running fifth with nine wins against eight losses, at the end of the eliminations.
The fourth-running Stags are likewise now just a half-game behind the Altas, who dropped to 11-7, and can even overtake their victims if they win their last game against College of St. Benilde.
The Altas led, 58-51, after a G-Jay Ylagan right-wing triple with over six minutes left in the payoff period, before the Stags banked on a 12-5 run, capped by a Leo de Vera breakaway layup to tie the game at 63 with 2:30 to go.
Ortuoste put the Stags in front for good after making two free throws in their next possession.
SSC (71) -- Perez 23, Ortuoste 19, De Vera 7, Guinto 5, Tano 5, Balucanag 4, Trinidad 4, Dela Cruz 3, Aquino 1, Rebollos 0, Vergara 0, Gusi 0, Magno 0.
UPH (65) -- Arboleda 23, Baloria 16, Thompson 11, Bantayan 6, ALano 4, Ylagan 3, Elopre 2, Oliveria 0, Dizon 0, Lucente 0, Jolangcob 0, Bitoy 0.
Quarterscores: 19-11; 33-29; 51-51; 71-65.