Cards sink Blazers, snare last semis slot
MAPUA coach Atoy Co has certainly set the bar high for the Cardinals in the 92nd NCAA basketball tournament.
Moments after the Cardinals clinched the last Final Four berth with a 69-59 victory over the St. Benilde Blazers yesterdat, Co said he expected more from his team that struggled in the first two quarters before pulling away in the final period at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
“I’m happy we’re in the Final Four but we had to go through the eye of the needle (in this game),” said Co in Filipino, after the Cardinals nailed their 11th win in 16 games.
“Benilde has something to gain and nothing to lose. The players only woke up in the second half, but in the Final Four we can’t afford that kind of game.”
Allwell Oraeme finished with 16 points and 19 rebounds, while Joseph Eriobu tallied 13 points for the Cardinals, who are also in contention for a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four, if they beat Arellano and Perpetual Help in their last two games.
“But we can’t play the way we did in this game and expect to win against Arellano or Perpetual,” said Co. “I hope we can address the bad habits before our big games. We have big goals this season.”
“It wasn’t a pretty win,” said Cardinals skipper CJ Isit. “I’m just happy we grind out, but we have things to work on.”
It marked the second straight year that the Cardinals reached the Final Four, after missing out on the postseason from 2009 to 2014.
The Blazers dropped to 0-16, tying the most number of losses by a team in the league.
Emilio Aguinaldo College finished last season with a league-worst 2-16 mark, the same record of guest team Angeles University Foundation in 2009.
San Sebastian sustained its strong second round performance with an 87-71 triumph over EAC in a battle of also-ran teams. Michael Calisaan fired 22 points as San Sebastian picked up its sixth win in the last seven games.