The magical run of University of Perpetual Help System DALTA continues.
Despite not having leading scorer Kim Aurin, the Altas played inspired basketball, racking up an impressive 76-64 wire-to-wire win over College of Saint Benilde, to book their place in the NCAA Season 97 Final Four, Wednesday at the FilOil Flying-V Centre in San Juan City.
Aurin, who was averaging 14.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game, contracted chickenpox earlier in the day which forced him out of the do-or-die tilt.
“Pagkagising ko, wala raw yung Kim Aurin,” said first-year coach Myk Saguiguit of his prized forward, who was ruled out due to chickenpox. “Sabi ko maglaro tayo para kay Kim Aurin. Let’s give it to him. Nag-respond naman mga player natin.”
And unheralded Altas players John Abis and JP Boral more than filled up the shoes left by Aurin.
Boral scored all 11 points in the first half while Abis got 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting with five rebounds, five assists, and a block.
Down 13, back-to-back baskets off the transition from JC Cullar and Miguel Corteza saw the Blazers to within nine at 55-64, with 4:56 left the game.
Jielo Razon, though, cooly sank three free throws to ice the game and virtually sealed their entry into the semifinals as the lead extended to 13, 71-58, with just 1:59 minutes remaining.
Razon also scattered 13 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists while Jeff Egan also got 13 points. Kris Pagaran also fired two treys for 11 points.
Mark Omega and Lean Martel also stepped up, grabbing seven and nine rebounds, respectively, while helping limit Will Gozum.
Perpetual, who is riding a four-game winning streak, advanced to their first Final Four since Season 94. The Altas will face defending champion Letran on Sunday at 12NN.
For the Blazers, AJ Benson and Tsutomu Tateishi have already exhausted their collegiate eligibility. Benson was not able to play in the game after being handed a one-game suspension for incurring two unsportsmanlike fouls against San Beda last Sunday.
Cullar led Benilde with 18 points while Gozum was limited to just 13 points on 3-of-8 shooting with 13 rebounds. Robi Nayve was limited to just eight points on a 2-of-15 shooting clip.
Benilde missed the Final Four boat for the 20th straight year.
Perpetual Help 76 – Abis 14, Razon 13, Egan 13, Pagaran 12, Boral 11, Omega 6, Martel 4, Cuevas 2, Sevilla 1, Barcuma 0.
St. Benilde 64 – Cullar 18, Gozum 13, Flores 10, Nayve 8, Corteza 8, Lim 4, Lepalam 2, Marcos 1, Carlos 0, Sangco 0, Publico 0, Mosqueda 0, Davis 0.
Quarterscores: 21-14; 40-32; 59-47;