“With all the players that I have, I think the playoffs will be hard for us,” said Macaraya after the Stags squeezed out an 85-82 victory over the Arellano Chiefs on Tuesday in the NCAA Season 95 men’s basketball tournament.
San Sebastian’s lack of size around the rim was evident after the Stags patiently survived the arduous task of restraining Arellano’s big men.
Good thing RK Ilagan and Allyn Bulanadi, the team’s 1-2 scoring punch, came out in full force in the latter half for an escape act that delivered the Stags’ 10th victory in 17 games, one game ahead of the 9-8 Mapua Cardinals in the battle for the last Final Four spot.
Arellano dropped to 4-13.
The Stags, who likewise got a Herculean task from pivotman JM Calma in the paint, need to defeat the Perpetual Help Altas on Friday to cement their trip to the semifinals.
Noah Lugo earlier saved the day for the Mapua Cardinals and kept their hopes alive for a semis stint after pulling off an 85-81 squeaker over the Altas.
“We badly needed this win because we don’t have control over San Sebastian. It’s a must-win situation for us in the last two games,” said Mapua coach Randy Alcantara.
The Cardinals must wrap up the elimination round with a victory over the College of St. Benilde Blazers to earn a fighting chance in the playoffs.
If San Beda completes an 18-0 sweep with a win over Lyceum on Thursday, the defending champions will automatically advance to the finals and leave the next three teams in the top four slugging it out in a step-ladder playoffs.
The Pirates (13-4), losing finalists to the Red Lions for two consecutive seasons, are already assured of the No. 2 spot in the semis while the Letran Knights will seal the No. 3 ranking if they subdue the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals in their final assignment.
Ilagan, a penetrate-first point guard, got his game going with 20 points, most of them in the second half.
Bulanadi had 19 points and eight rebounds. Kenneth Villapando was also big as the Stags put to naught a 26-point night by Kent Salado.