Letran and Perpetual Help revved up their chase for a Final Four berth, but another contender, St. Benilde, faltered in a defeat that could come back to haunt the Blazers late in the NCAA Season 94 basketball tournament.
The Knights kept a stranglehold of third spot with an 89-79 drubbing of the Jose Rizal U Heavy Bombers, after the Altas zoomed to a fourth straight win at the expense of Mapua, 88-71.
The Blazers’ worst fears came to life when an inspired but already out of it Emilio Aguinaldo College squad escaped with a gutsy 69-67 victory.
The results meant the Knights kept third spot with a 10-4 record. The Altas, still on a high following their stunning upset of Lyceum last week, improved to 9-5 for fourth, but the Blazers, in the midst of one of their finest seasons since 2014, fell to fifth a full game behind with an 8-6 record.
Kim Aurin poured 23 points and dished out four assists, while Jielo Razon finished with 19 markers on four triples for the Altas. Prince Eze had another big game with 17 points and 15 rebounds.
“We want to keep on winning to reach the Final Four,” said coach Frankie Lim, the architect of the Altas’ stunning turnaround this season.
The Altas, however, face a steep climb with potential banana skins against San Sebastian and Emilio Aguinaldo next week, before they battle Letran and San Beda in their last two games.
“We are playing Baste (San Sebastian College-Recoletos) next week then EAC (Emilio Aguinaldo College) and those games are must-win,” Lim added.
It was JP Magullano who spoiled the Blazers’ fightback with a crucial basket over Clement Leutcheu with over a minute remaining. Magullano had 14 points with half of which coming in the last five minutes as the Generals ended a seven-game slide.
“This game was also important to us because if we lost, we would be in last place,” said EAC coach Ariel Sison, whose team jacked up its record to 3-11, just a game ahead of last placed JRU.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.