Blazers suffer third one-point defeat in four games, bow to Knights
Another winnable game slips through the Blazers’ hands.
Benilde needed just two makes out of three pressure-packed free throws from Luis Sinco to at least send the game to an extra five minute session, but the third year guard saw his first two shots from the 15-foot line drawing iron to give Letran College their fourth straight victory to start their 89th NCAA seniors’ basketball campaign at The Arena in San Juan City.
With a final count of 61-60 on Saturday night, this year’s hosts continue to rack up a heartbreaking average losing margin of 1.25 points this season.
The Knights, led by the backcourt tandem of Kevin Racal and Mark Cruz, are now the surprise leaders of the tournament despite losing key players Jam Cortes and Kevin Alas prior to this season’s campaign under new head coach Caloy Garcia.
“Ginawa kong motivation ‘yung last two games ko na wala akong na i-contribute. Pumukpok talaga ako sa practice, maganda yung kinalabasan sa game,” said Racal, who missed their entire summer campaign while recovering from a knee injury.
“Maganda itong (4-0) start namin. Pero hindi pa ito sapat, kasi andami pa naming malalakas na kalaban,” he added.
But Coach Garcia lamented yet another close match for their squad, who have won all of their games by a margin of five points or less.
“Lahat ng games namin, puro close. Parang hindi ko alam kung saan kami mag-aadjust. Basically, we’re just missing free throws and turning the ball over,” noted Garcia, who previously steered the Blazers from 2005 to 2007 to a sour 9-31 (.225) mark during his stay. “We also have to learn how to play better, lalo na lagi kaming slow start.”
Racal’s 18 points on a torrid 6-for-11 clip from the field with eight caroms led the way for the NCAA seniors’ division’s solo leaders, backed by Cruz’s 13 points and five assists.
Despite the painful defeat that sent them to the bottom of the heap, Benilde head coach Gabby Velasco remained upbeat about their campaign.
“I told them, games like these…separate men from the boys. Siguro boys pa rin tayo. Hopefully we’ll get there,” noted Velasco, who took over the reigns from longtime head coach Richard Del Rosario.
Mark Romero led the Blazers in scoring with 18 points, while Paolo Taha added 10 points with six rebounds before fouling out in yet another losing cause.
Altas dock Pirates at shore, withdraw protest of overtime loss to Stags
In the first game, Perpetual Help banked on a solid performance from their “Big Three” of Nick Omorogbe, Juneric Baloria, and Justine Alano to stave off Lyceum of the Philippines, 71-66, to dislodge the midcard jam and move up to a tie with San Beda in second place.
Still playing without the injury-riddled Femi Babayemi, Omorogbe took charge with 19 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. Alano added 10 points, five caroms, and two swats.
Despite deadlocking the game at 59-all with more than half of the game to go, Baloria went on a scoring spree, scoring eight of his total points in the final five minutes that staved off the Pirates’ attempts of wresting the lead away and eventually led them to victory.
The rookie hotshot finished 18 points with six boards and two blocks.
On the other hand, Dexter Zamora had another sensational performance, posting 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting from the field, together with three assists in a losing effort.
Meanwhile, Perpetual Help withdrew the protest they filed immediately following their loss against San Sebastian College on Monday and instead ask for a clarification on the non-call during the second quarter of said game.
The call in question happened late in the second period, where San Sebastian guard Jon Rebollos fired a shot and kicked his legs to the groin of Baloria. Rebollos’ shot was counted and was called for the foul during the point that the Stags were already in penalty situation.
PERPETUAL HELP (71): Omorogbe 19, Baloria 18, Alano 10, Thompson 9, Arboleda 8, Elopre 4, Bantayan 3, Oliveria 0, Dizon 0, Lucente 0, Jolangcob 0
LYCEUM (66): Zamora 13, Ko 11, Mbomiko 10, Azores 10, Baltazar 8, Francisco 5, Lesmoras 5, Ambohot 4, Mendoza 0, Evangelista 0, Taladua 0, Alanes 0
QUARTERS: 19-14, 42-30, 55-55, 71-66
LETRAN (61): Racal 18, Cruz 13, Almazan 9, Nambatac 7, Publico 4, Gabawan 4, Belorio 3, Ruaya 2, Dysam 1, Tambeling 0, Luib 0, Buenaflor 0
BENILDE (60): Romero 18, Taha 10, Bartolo 8, Grey 6, Saavedra 5, Argamino 5, Ongteco 4, Sinco 4, Carlos 0, Garcia 0, Deles 0
QUARTERS: 17-13, 31-31, 46-41, 61-60