College of Saint Benilde swept its elims series against Season 98 finals rivals Colegio de San Juan de Letran, as the Blazers dominated the Knights 72-54 in the NCAA Season 99 Seniors Basketball Tournament on Sunday at the Filoil Ecooil Centre.
After a hotly contested first two quarters, Benilde came out of the dugout and overpowered the Knights in the second half, taking control of both the third and fourth quarters to ensure Letran’s demise.
It was a bittersweet run in the third quarter, though, as the Blazers lost the services of their reigning MVP, Will Gozum, who went down with an injury at 9:14 in the third quarter after colliding with a Letran defender and limping to the locker room.
After a tight first half that ended with Benilde up 35-33, the Blazers left the halftime break with renewed energy and focus. They launched an 8-0 run in the opening minutes of the third quarter, helping them extend their lead from two to 13, 56-43 at the 2:16 mark after a Mark Sangco layup.
The advantage only grew in the fourth quarter as the Blazers left the Knights in the dust, completely taking over the matchup and finishing the game up 72-54, the biggest lead in the match.
“They played a bit harder, shared the ball better, and we had 20 assists. It’s been a while since we’ve shared the ball like that. Mark Sangco hit some big shots for us, and Oczon got hot in the fourth to give us some breathing room, but it’s still a hard-fought game. Letran still competed, and we’re thankful we escaped with the win,” shared Blazers head coach Charles Tiu.
Despite the victory, Tiu was still dissatisfied with his Blazers squad, which still needs one more win to lock in a Final Four slot.
“We need to have a deep lineup. The more guys contributing, the harder it is to defend us. Mark has been up and down, so inconsistent, and I’m still upset that he got himself ejected and suspended in one game that could maybe give us a chance for a Final Four. Sinabi niya na babawi siya pero the job’s not done for us. We still have to earn our way to the Final Four,” he explained.
Sangco and Miguel Corteza led the Blazers’ offense with 13 points, three rebounds, and two assists apiece. Alongside them was Miguel Oczon, who contributed 12 points, seven boards, and four assists.
The Blazers secured their 11th win, improving to an 11-6 record for the season. They have an opportunity to seal a Final Four appearance in their final battle against Emilio Aguinaldo College on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.
Kobe Monje was the lone Knight who succeeded in his duels, scoring 18 points and grabbing nine boards. No other member of Letran scored in double-digits in its tough loss.
With a 2-15 record, Letran faces another tough battle to conclude Season 99 as it goes up against rivals San Beda University on Friday at 3:30 p.m, the final match of the elimination rounds.
CSB 72- Corteza 13, Sangco 13, Oczon 12, Gozum 9, Nayve 8, Cajucom 5, Mara 4, Marcos 4, Carlos 2, Turco 2, Arciaga 0, Jarque 0, Davis 0, Marasigan 0
Letran 54- Monje 18, Garupil 8, Cuajao 8, Javillonar 6, Batallier 5, Santos 4, Bojorcelo 3, Jumao-as 2, Bautista 0, Go 0, Ariar 0
Quarterscores: 15-15; 35-33; 59-48; 72-54