Blazers squeak past Altas, match last season’s win total at 5-4
MANILA, Philippines—Paolo Taha made the go-ahead basket with under a minute left and College of St. Benilde came back from a double-digit deficit to beat Perpetual Help, 77-73, in the NCAA Season 90 men’s basketball tournament Wednesday at the Arena in San Juan.
Taha scored on an up-and-under move against the defense of Altas forward Harold Arboleda that gave the Blazers the lead for good, 73-72, with 36.7 seconds left.
The graduating swingman Taha finished with nine points and grabbed game-high 15 rebounds for CSB, which already matched its total wins last season at 5-4 after winning five of its last six games.
“Today, we really were so worried about their game the last time because they shot 52% from the 3-point line. That was our objective today to stop their outside shots,” said CSB head coach Gabby Velasco.
But the Altas still waxed hot from downtown in the first half making six out of their 13 attempts and made four more in the last two quarters.
Still though, Velasco commended his team’s defense that forced Perpetual Help to commit two costly turnovers in the final 27.8 seconds.
“Good thing in the second half we we’re aggressive enough, we were hustling enough to close out on their outside shots,” said Velasco.
CSB’s Jonathan Grey scored 19 points on an efficient 8-of-10 shooting from the field to lead the Blazers, while skipper Mark Romero had 13 points, including a 3-pointer that tied the game at 70 for the first time since the Altas took a late 54-41 advantage in the third quarter.
“I saw my defender was tired so I just continued to attack his defense,” Grey said in Filipino.
“Romero wasn’t playing well. But the biggest contribution was his 3-pointer when we tied the game. But towards the end, when we were taking free throws, we were smart enough and we’re matured enough to apply what we learned against Arellano. We wanted to end the first round on a positive note.”
With the win, the Blazers now moved into a three-way with the Altas and the Lyceum Pirates in fourth place heading into the second round.
“This will give us confidence in the second round but more so the positioning, we want to be right there at the top of the standings,” Velasco said.
Perpetual Help swingman Juneric Baloria led all scorers with 22 points that went with seven rebounds while Earl Thompson tallied 20 points. Harold Arboleda collected 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists while playing for the entire 40 minutes.