Showing tremendous fighting spirit down the stretch, Lyceum completed another stunning upset, this time against league leader Letran, 80-76, last night in the 89th NCAA basketball tournament at Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
Aziz Mbomiko, Lyceum’s Cameroonian swingman, finished with a career-high 22 points, including 17 in the second half, and came away with seven rebounds, while Dexter Zamora chipped in 18 points for the Pirates, who became the first team to beat the two finalists last year after stunning San Beda in the first round.
Deployed more for defensive purposes, Jeremiah Taladua delivered the game’s biggest shot with a triple with 18.3 seconds that gave the Pirates a 78-76 advantage. Taladua sealed the win with a fastbreak lay-up with 3.8 seconds remaining.
The Pirates rallied from a 13-point deficit in the third period relying on an unforgiving full-court press anchored by Taladua and Mbomiko, who combined for seven of the team’s nine steals.
With the win, the Pirates grabbed solo eighth spot by improving to 4-7, while pinning a second loss on the Knights, who still lead the league with a 9-2 slate.
Earlier, Jovit Dela Cruz repaid the faith coach Topex Robinson had in him, firing a season-high 25 points as San Sebastian ended a three-game slide with an emphatic 90-69 victory over Emilio Aguinaldo College.
The Stags skipper knocked in 10 of 15 shots and took charge in a late breakaway that boosted San Sebastian to a share of fourth spot with Jose Rizal U with its fifth victory in 10 outings while ending the Generals’ three-game winning run.
“I know I’ve been struggling but coach kept encouraging me and told me to be aggressive,” said Dela Cruz, who also grabbed 11 rebounds, dished out five assists and swatted away two shots.
“A lot is expected from him being one of the veterans of the team,” said Robinson of Dela Cruz, who entered the game with a 10.4 points per game average. “I’m happy he delivered.”
The Generals, who fell into a tie for sixth spot with St. Benilde with a 4-6 card, got off to a strong 20-13 start with Igee King and Noube Happi leading the early charge before Jamil Ortuoste ignited a second-quarter run that allowed the Stags to seize control.
Ortouste, in his second game back from an ankle injury, also stepped up for the Stags with 27 points—all coming in the last three quarters, while Leo De Vera wound up with 14 points, built on four-of-five shooting from beyond the arc.
SAN SEBASTIAN 90—Ortuoste 27, Dela Cruz 25, De Vera 14, Guinto 9, Tano 6, Trinidad 3, Padilla 2, Magno 2, Perez 1, Aquino 1, Rebollos 0, Balid 0.
EAC 69—Happi 16, Paguia 10, King 10, Arquero 10, Jamon 8, Onwubere 4, Hiole Manga 2, Mejos 2, Munsayac 2, Tayongtong 2, Morada 2, Monteclaro 1, Saludo 0.
Quarters: 13-20, 43-40, 61-55, 90-69
LYCEUM 80—Mbomiko 22, Zamora 18, Ko 10, Azores 9, Baltazar 5, Taladua 5, Lesmoras 4, Ambohot 3, Lacastesantos 2, Mendoza 2, Francisco 0.
LETRAN 76—Almazan 21, Cruz 17, Racal 9, Gabawan 6, Ruaya 5, Publico 5, Belorio 4, Nambatac 3, Buenaflor 3, Castro 2, Po 0, Luib 0.
Quarters: 19-18, 31-36, 56-58, 80-76