De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde Blazers’ hunger for that championship is now within grasp.
After an opening day loss, the Taft-based ensemble plucked ten consecutive victories, the latest of which is a masterful straight sets stoppage of Arellano University Chiefs, 27-25, 25-, 25-14, to march on to the Finals, Tuesday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
Isaah Arda stepped up with a bang for the white-shirts, firing off 15 points with 14 spikes and a service ace. Team skipper John Vic De Guzman also ended up with a relatively quiet 15 markers.
Both teams fought toe-to-toe in the first two sets much to the delight of the audience in attendance.
The Blazers took the initiative in the opening set, before the Chiefs made it a close fight with better defense and floor coverage to even take the set point at 24-23.
Nonetheless, Arda took advantage of two good transitions to finish off the set with two down-the-line hits at 27-25.
“Kapag alanganin na hindi na makapalo si John Vic talaga mag-step up na si Arda sa backline which is nangyari naman kanina,” said Saint Benilde head coach Arnold Laniog.
The Chiefs took the momentum of the failed comeback to gain the upper hand at the start of the second set.
Not liking what he saw, Laniog called for a timeout to stop the Arellano run. This paid dividends as the top-seeds turned to their defense to pull away late in the set.
“Number one kami sa blocking at sa floor defense, kaya dapat pakita namin,” Laniog told his team. “Naba-boblock namin, nadidig namin, pero pagset up, hindi namin nacoconvert. Sabi ko, wala lang titigil, trabahuhin lang namin. Pag nakuha namin, tuluy-tuloy na yan.”
This confidence seemed to fuel the Blazers who pulled away late in the second set to take the 2-0 lead.
From there, the squad from Taft Avenue was just unstoppable as their flawless transition lead to easy spikes. On the other hand, the Chiefs could not get their offense going as Blazer Jethro Orian was impenetrable at the middle.
The league leaders inched closer to the win before Jordan Martinez finished the match with an ace. His lone point of the game sent his squad to its second Finals appearance in three years.
Christian Dela Paz finished with nine markers to lead the Legarda pack, which ended up in fourth this year.
The Finals series between the Blazers and the defending champions Perpetual Altas will start on Friday, February 3.
CSB 3 – Arda 15, De Guzman 15, Orian 6, Jordan 4, Basilan 3, Deximo 3, Bacani 2, Martinez 1, Magsino 0, Daming 0, Bautista 0, Dy L, Garcia L.
AU 0 – Dela Paz 9, Cabillan 8, K Liberato 6, Latip 6, Aliyacyac 4, J Liberato 2, Soriano 1, Santo 1, Domingo 1, Esguerra 0, Blanco L, Arellano L.