Blazers make strong move toward Final Four bonus
St. Benilde coach Charles Tiu had the numbers pretty much figured out Friday afternoon.
“To us, being [number] one or two is not important,” said Tiu. “What’s important is to get the twice-to-beat advantage.”
He has a solution worked out, too.
“I hope somebody beats San Beda these next days before they face us,” the Blazers tactician added.
Not that St. Benilde is idling away a crucial phase of the NCAA Season 98 men’s basketball tournament. Far from it. In fact, the Blazers did their part well, steadying themselves in the face of a searing last-ditch effort from Lyceum to forge a 100-88 victory and simplify the quest for twice-to-beat protection in the semifinals.
That win pinned a sixth loss on the Pirates and left them with a 12-6 record at the end of their elimination round campaign. And with San Beda currently at 11-5, the Blazers will have two games to polish up their 12-4 (win-loss) record—tied for first with Letran—to clinch one of two twice-to-beat incentives heading into the Final Four.
St. Benilde has games against Arellano and San Beda to end its elimination round campaign.
“We have two more games in four days but we’ll take [this] win,” Tiu said.
“When you go to the semis, there’s no advantage anymore, it’s all 0-0. All you need to do is win one game or two games depending on the seeding so at least we know we just have to take care of business and we know we still have a chance to get that second spot outright,” he added.
St. Benilde was hardly in trouble against Lyceum for most of the match, taking leads of as many as 24 before the Pirates made a game out of it late in the final period.
“I was happy, for the most part, before the last five minutes. It [the run] was probably my fault because I tried to let some guys play too early. If we lost that, I probably would have fired myself,” Tiu said.
The Blazers held a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter when the Pirates uncorked an 18-5 run, capped by a JM Bravo three-point basket, to cut the lead to seven, 95-88.
But Migs Oczon provided the cushion free throws and finished with 18 points to seal the game for the Blzers. Will Gozum registered a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds
Enoch Valdez tallied 18 markers in Lyceum’s losing effort while Shawn Umali had 17 to go along with four boards and five blocks.
Earlier, San Sebastian held off Perpetual Help, 78-74.
The Stags improved to 7-9 after nearly blowing a 13-point lead in the first half. They righted the ship in the fourth, sending the Altas off on a 7-11 record and giving the San Sebastian seniors a chance to play out their eligibility on a high note.
“We didn’t want to relax because we want to end this season going hard, especially me because this is my last season with Baste. I want our exit to be good and we want our last two games to [be victories],” standout Itchie Altamirano said.