“Finally, the monkey’s off our backs.”
De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde muffed a late-game comeback attempt by Lyceum of the Philippines to claim a 75-69 victory in Thursday’s seniors basketball twinbill at The Arena in San Juan City.
Among those relieved by the result was first-time Benilde head coach Gabby Velasco, who compared the result to “winning the lottery.”
“It was not easy for us. There was a scary part there. It might be another heartbreaking loss, but we finally held our ground and finally won,” noted Velasco. “The spirit is there. We keep on fighting, but we cannot rest following this victory.”
Midway through the fourth period, the Pirates fought back from 20 points down to close the gap to five points under the two minute warning, thanks to the timely baskets of Dexter Zamora and Mark Francisco.
But LPU could not get the job done, succumbing to the Blazers’ tough defensive stops to come out with the victory.
Led by Fons Saavedra’s 14 points and 11 rebounds, Benilde (1-5) finally ended their five-game skid with an average losing margin of 1.4 points per ballgame – by far, the smallest losing margin in recent memory.
Paolo Taha added 13 points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting from the field, together with six rebounds, and two blocks in 20 minutes of action. Team captain Mark Romero tallied 12 points, nine rebounds, and five assists in a total team effort by the Blazers.
Cameroonian reinforcement Aziz Issah Mbomiko led the Pirates with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Shane Ko added 12 points and seven rebounds in a losing cause.
In the first game, Colegio de San Juan de Letran maintained their unbeaten record by beating Arellano University, 67-57, in an emotionally-charged game.
Barely a week following the shooting incident that severely wounded backup guard Franz Dysam, the Knights took the court and took care of business.
“Sa practice namin, hindi namin masyado inisip kung anong nangyari (kay Franz Dysam). We just focused on kung anong gusto naming mangyari sa game,” said Letran head coach Caloy Garcia. “We just wanted to run. Na-achieve namin yung goal na i-push ang bola.”
The Knights did make a living with their uptempo play in the pivotal third period, scoring six of their 16 fastbreak points en route to blitzing the Chiefs during the quarter, 19-9.
With the Chiefs missing energetic swingman James Forrester, who had to rest his ailing left knee after suffering a partially torn meniscus during the pre-season, AU seemed to have lost their stride during the match.
“Willing kaming magcontribute (para sa team). Itong game na ito para kay Franz Dysam,” said Letran guard Mark Cruz, who topbilled with 25 points on 5-for-10 shooting from long range.
With his point total, the younger brother of fomer PBA guard Marvin Cruz nearly outscored all the Chiefs’ starters, who scored a combined total of 30 points.
Donald Gumaru led AU with all of his 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting from the field during the second half.
||67 – 57||ARELLANO UNIVERSITY
|Quarters: 22-16, 34-33, 53-42, 67-57|
|Cruz – 25
Almazan – 17
Cruz / Luib / Racal – 3
|Gumaru – 10
Pinto – 9
Pinto – 7