Lyceum of the Philippines University completed a massive 85-81 upset of College of Saint Benilde to cap opening day of the NCAA Season 99 Seniors Basketball Tournament on Sunday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Third-year winger John Bravo took charge of the Pirates’ offense with 18 points on an efficient 7-of-10 shooting, helping end Lyceum’s three-game skid to Benilde.
Bravo was the catalyst in breaking the Pirates’ slow start, engineering Lyceum’s 25-12 third quarter turnaround that turned a 37-45 halftime deficit into a 62-57 cushion.
Lyceum’s momentum carried over to the final frame, extending its lead to 72-62, behind Bravo and Shaun Umali.
The Blazers then went on one last rally, cutting the lead to 72-78 after a Robi Nayve basket. However, Bravo pulled up for a big dagger on the other end with 2:03 remaining to quell last season’s runners-up.
“Kailangan mo naman bigyan ng confidence yung mga players mo, pag hindi mo nga mapipigilan kung ano ang laro nila, so I let them play. Sabi ko nga I’m gonna trust them with all my heart, so ang balik naman sa akin yung outcome ng game,” said third-year Pirates head coach Gilbert Malabanan, who finally got that elusive win over the Blazers.
Enoch Valdez, who was drafted as the 18th overall pick by NLEX in the 2023 PBA Draft, provided 16 points and four rebounds while Umali got 14 points and six rebounds.
The Blazers were without reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player Will Gozum for the game due to a one-game suspension handed to him during Game 3 of last season’s finals.
With Gozum out, Miggy Corteza stepped up, producing a game-high 21 points to go with four rebounds and five blocks.
Graduating guards Nayve, Migs Oczon, and Prince Carlos chipped 13 apiece, while combining for 10 assists against five turnovers.
The Pirates are set to square off against defending champion Colegio de San Juan de Letran (0-1) on Wednesday, 4:00 PM at the Filoil Ecooil Centre.
On the other hand, the Blazers will look to recover from the loss in a match against Jose Rizal University (1-0) on Friday, 2:00 PM also at the same venue.
LPU 85- Bravo 18, Valdez 16, Umali 14, Barba 11, Cunanan 6, Penafiel 6, Villegas 5, Guadana 5, Montano 2, Omandac 2, Versoza 0, Aviles 0
CSB 81- Corteza 21, Nayve 13, Oczon 13, Carlos 13, Flores 9, Sangco 4, Jarque 4, Marcos 2, Turco 2, Marasigan 0, Davis 0, Jalalon 0, Mara 0, Cajucom 0
Quarterscores: 12-20, 37-45, 62-57, 85-81