College of Saint Benilde weathered a furious comeback by Arellano in the homestretch to escape with a 66-64 victory and revived its final four bid in the 87th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at the Fil Oil-Flying V Arena.
The Blazers enjoyed a 14-point fourth quarter lead, 62-48, but the Chiefs’ Vergel Zulueta caught fire to rally his team to within striking distance, 65-64, with 11.3 seconds left.
In the next play, Anton Altamirano split his charities after being sent to the foul line off a duty foul by the Chiefs.
The Blazers raced to the other end and had two chances of snatching a win or equalizing the match. Zulueta’s trey attempt failed to hit the mark before Andrian Celada missed a potential game-tying shot, allowing St. Benilde to snap its two-game skid.
With the victory, the Taft-based cagers improved their win-loss record to 5-7, a game behind Mapua (6-6) for the No. 4 spot in the standings.
But St. Benilde coach Richard del Rosario wasn’t satisfied with the victory.
“Ang naging problema namin was the players’ inability to follow instructions kaya nagkaroon ng breakdown sa endgame,” said del Rosario. “Ang hirap lang is madaling natutuwa ang mga players and they relaxed. We need to fix that.”
The win boosted CSB’s chances despite the coach’s uncertain future with the team.
Last week, Del Rosario was appointed as acting head coach of B-MEG in the PBA. Whether he ends up coaching the Llamados or slides down to make way for the possible appointment of Tim Cone as head bench tactician remains to be seen.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Del Rosario told reporters.
The Blazers, who squandered double-digit leads against in their losing games to Mapua and Perpetual Help, found themselves on the brink of another collapse, this time against the Chiefs.
Luckily for CSB, the Chiefs ran out of time.
Rookie Paolo Taha had 12 points and six rebounds and Jonathan Grey added 10 points, four rebounds and five assists. Altamirano, the son of National University mentor Eric Altamirano, also scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds.
Rookie Mark Romero played his final game with the Blazers as he is set to join his parents migrating to the United States.
The Blazers won despite getting a measly three-point production from Carlo Lastimosa. The team’s leading scorer played just 16 minutes and sat out most of the second half.
Zulueta had 19 points in 18 minutes while coming off the bench. He had
14 points in the payoff period.
Andrian Celada added 17 points and nine boards, but his numbers were not enough to carry the Chiefs, who dropped to 4-9.
ST BENILDE 66 – Taha 12, Grey 10, Altamirano 10, de la Paz 9, Romero 8, Sinco 5, Carlos 5, Lastimosa 3, Tan 2, Nayve 2, McCoy 0.
ARELLANO 64 – Zulueta 19, Celada 17, Lapuz 9, del Rosario 4, Doligon 4, Casino 3, Acidre 2, Okpe 2, Palma 2, Salcedo 2, Pagayunan 0.
Quarters: 19-11; 33-29; 47-39; 66-64