All it took was a wayward elbow on his throat for Calvin Oftana to get going on Thursday.
After hitting the deck in the third period because of a Justin Gutang elbow, Oftana responded with 14 points in a key San Beda run as the Red Lions moved to within another win of sweeping the elimination round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament following a 95-73 win over St. Benilde at Filoil Flying V Centre.
Oftana hit the Blazers where it hurt the most as the Red Lions roared to their 17th straight win. Win No. 18 will give San Beda outright entry into the best-of-three title series.
The Blazers seemed in control at the start of the third period, but an unsportsmanlike offensive foul called on a driving Gutang for hitting Oftana altered the entire complexion of the game.
With Gutang on the bench, Oftana began to hit his stride and joined hands with Pedro Alfaro to reverse the fortunes of the Lions, who went from five points down to a stunning 17-point advantage near the end of the third quarter.
Jarred but hardly bothered, Oftana—after presiding upon that dazzling breakaway—finished with a career-high 29 points.
“It’s all part of the game. I just focused on making my shots,” said Oftana, the leading MVP candidate, in Filipino.
James Canlas nearly registered a triple-double with 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Lions, who will go for a sweep in their much-awaited encounter with the Lyceum Pirates exactly a week from now.
“We have been winning because of our defense. We had to go back to the basics after that lousy first half,” said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez.
Evan Nelle again showed why he’s the league’s assist leader, dishing out nine. Donald Tankoua and AC Soberano finished with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
As for the Blazers, their ninth defeat in 16 games pushed them off the cliff and out of the semifinal race.
Noah Lugo fired 22 points, including a crucial momentum-shifting three, as Mapua secured a 90-73 win over San Sebastian in the other game.
The Cardinals notched their eighth win in 16 games to stay alive for a semifinal appearance to the disappointment of the Stags.
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