“Ang goal talaga is nothing else but the championship.”
Those were words of leading MVP candidate and De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde Blazers’ team captain John Vic De Guzman when asked on how they want to end this season. And what better way to show it but to torch reigning champions University of Perpetual Help DALTA Altas in a payback win in straight sets, 25-21, 25-23, 25-14, and in the process clinching the number seed in the semifinals, Friday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
Walking the talk, the Blazers skipper finished with a game-high 23 points, 20 off attacks.
The teams figured in a tussle in the first set as they pounced on each others’ lapses. Nonetheless, it was the white-shirts who overcame their reception woes to eventually build a 14-11 lead off consecutive De Guzman backrow attacks.
The Altas leaned on their middle plays to inch closer, only they succumbed to service errors, spelling their demise in the first set as Francis Basilan finished off an open hit.
It was a similar story in the second frame, but this time the Altas took the initiative. Nonetheless, CSB setter Mark Deximo utilized his attackers well, getting production from Owen Bacani and even substitute Anthony Bautista.
The Blazers then took advantage of the miscues of the Altas late in the set, before De Guzman soared and scored once more from the back to get the 2-0 lead.
From there, the Taft-based spikers never looked back as the punished the reception problems of the reigning champions. Middle hitter Jethro Orian eventually finished off the set and match with back-to-back points off an off-tempo center attack and a block.
Blazers head coach Arnold Laniog was visibly pleased of his wards’ performance despite little preparation for this match.
“Medyo maiksi yung preparation for Tuesday[‘s Final Four]. So, preparation-wise, medyo minadali namin,” he admitted.
“Sabi ko sa start ng game, ‘Whatever happens, mangyayari ang mangyayari. Basta yung crucial sa Tuesday. Pero yung araw na to, mabigay natin yung pinractice natin.”
Nonetheless, Laniog was pleased with that his squad continues to show their in-court confidence.
“Ang sabi ko pagdating ng January, dapat makita nilang iba tayo. Pagdating pa lang natin sa court, yung facial expression natin, dun palang magugulat na yung kalaban,” he added.
No Altas player reached double figures as three spikers finished with seven points to lead the maroon-shirts.
The top-seeded Blazers will have the twice-to-beat advantage against the Arellano Chiefs in the Final Four. On the other hand, the defending champions will battle the San Beda Red Spikers armed with the same incentive.
The semifinal matches are both scheduled on Tuesday, January 31 at the same venue.
CSB 3 – De Guzman 23, Arda 8, Bacani 8, Basilan 5, Deximo 3, Jordan 3, Orian 2, Bautista 1, Dy L, Garcia L.
UPHSD 0 – Taneo Jr. 7, Doliente 7, Kasim 7, Ramos 3, Narvasa 3, Rosales 3, R. Taneo 2, Sala-an 2, Atentar 0, S. Taneo 0, Kalingking L, Balmores L.