King of Stags
The San Sebastian gunner, currently the league’s leading scorer, drilled holes into Lyceum’s sturdy defensive wall on Tuesday and dropped the key pass that helped the Stags to a jaw-dropping come-from-behind 73-71 victory over the Pirates in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
“This is a big win because we are already fighting for our lives. We were able to show great composure after overcoming a very large deficit,” said San Sebastian coach Egay Macaraya, whose wards snapped a six-game win run by Lyceum.
Romel Calahat sealed San Sebastian’s ninth win in 15 games after sinking the decisive basket against Mike Nzeusseu with 5.2 seconds remaining off that feed from Bulanadi.
“I wasn’t expecting that pass. I immediately tossed it to the ring when I received the ball,” said Calahat in Filipino.
That no-look inbounds pass from the baseline punctuated the brilliance of Bulanadi, who fired 19 of his game-high 28 points in the latter half as the Stags came back from 19 points down.
“I knew RK (Ilagan) and Alvin (Capobres) will draw defensive attention. Romel and I already had eye contact way before that pass,” said Bulanadi.
With three games left, the Stags are now running fourth, two full games behind the Mapua Cardinals and the College of St. Benilde Blazers, both at 7-8.
The Pirates drew one last play to save them from sinking, but Reymar Caduyac lost control when he ran smack into Calahat that led to their fourth defeat in 16 games. They are already assured of a semifinal spot along with the defending champion San Beda Red Lions (16-0).
Justin Gutang played efficient ball for 18 minutes in the final half and carried St. Benilde to a 62-56 triumph over Emilio Aguinaldo College in the other match.
Yankie Haruna also delivered with 16 points for the Blazers, who finally tasted victory after a series of frustrating setbacks that left them in dire straits going into the final stretch of the second round.
Marwin Taywan attempted to resuscitate EAC’s bid, but bungled the opportunity in the face of the Blazers’ smothering defense.
Rey Anthony Peralta fired a career-high 25 points as Perpetual Help pulled off a 77-66 victory over hard-fighting Jose Rizal U in another match.
Out of the running for a semifinal berth, the Altas improved to 4-10.
Peralta, who has spent more time on the bench in previous outings, exploited a key break when he was asked to pinch-hit for Kim Aurin.
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