The Perpetual Altas played one notch higher and completed a two-game season sweep on the Saint Benilde Blazers, 78-74, in Season 88 action of the NCAA at the FilOil-Flying V Arena in San Juan.
It was a far cry from the Altas’ 84-64 demolition job of the Blazers last July 19, but the result forced a triple tie between Perpetual, idle San Sebastian and JRU, who all have similar 7-3 slates.
Perpetual had the game in their favor right at the opening tip, with the Blazers playing with a crippled lineup sans Joel Tolentino, who will be serving a three-game ban, and Rhoel Maconocido, who is out for one game.
A strong team effort from the Altas in the third period gave them a 15-point lead over the Blazers.
In the final period, heroics from Saint Benilde’s Paolo Taha and the returning Carlo Lastimosa paved the way for the Blazers to come back into the game.
Down 73-61, an 11-0 spurt from Lastimosa and Taha brought the Blazers back within one, 73-72 with 1:33 left.
In the ensuing play, Chris Elopre committed a five-second inbound violation at midcourt. The ball went back to Saint Benilde but the struggling Blazers failed to convert on their end. As soon as Perpetual regained possession, veteran guard Jett Vidal pulled up from beyond the arc and connected on a triple that gave Perpetual a 76-72 lead with 43 ticks left.
Lastimosa quickly scored on their offensive end. With the match down to a two-possession game, Vidal launched another shot from long range but sorely missed. Femi Babayemi, though, happened to be at the right place that time as he won the loose ball over two Blazers.
“Lagi kong sinasabi, kahit lamang, wag magpapabaya. Tingnan nyo ang nangyari. Yung mga nasa ibaba na teams naghahabol yan. Ok lang siguro matalo sa top two teams, wag lang sa mga nasa ibaba,” said Perpetual coach Aric Del Rosario.
“Ayaw namin isipin ang final four kaagad dahil mawawala kami sa focus,” said Vidal, who is playing in his last collegiate year.
The Blazers dropped their seventh game against just three wins.
Late in the fourth, Ralph Deles of Saint Benilde was taken out of the venue in a stretcher. He was reportedly hit near the stomach, causing him pain.
Perpetual (78) — Vidal 21, Jolangcob 14, Omorogbe 11, Paulino 8, Thompson 7, Arboleda 7, Babayemi 4, Alano 4, Allen 2, Elopre 0.
Saint Benilde (74) — Lastimosa 23, Taha 14, Tan 10, Romero 9, Sinco 6, Bartolo 5, Grey 3, Altamirano 2, Deles 2, Ongteco 0, Garcia 0.
Quarterscores: 13-14, 41-31, 65-51, 78-74.
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