MANILA, Friday—College of St. Benilde will have to overcome more than Letran to force a Game 3 in the NCAA Season 98 men’s basketball tournament finals.
As the Blazers take on the Knights in Game 2, they also have to battle their own fatigues–along with the tremendous pressure–to push for a rubber game for the championship.
“The guys are in great shape. We don’t practice too hard to make sure they have enough legs (for game day),” said coach Charles Tiu. “It really was the pressure. (Migs) Corteza cramps up after 12 minutes in the first half, he was sitting down to start the third and it just happened.”
Aside from Corteza, Robi Nayve and Mark Sangco also slowed down in the fourth quarter of their 81-75 loss due to cramps, leaving Letran open to make a game-ending run.
Another blow in Benilde’s side in the first game was when the frontrunner for league MVP,Will Gozum, also went down with nagging pain.
Gozum finished with a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds but cramps held him to lesser minutes in the second half, allowing Louie Sangalang to bully his way inside for his 24 markers.
“We can’t win games when four of your starters are out due to cramps or injuries. It’s very tough. 100 percent, it was a game-changer for us,” admitted Tiu.
Having to play hurt is not something new for the Blazers as Tiu already stated a few weeks back that his team is facing several painful—but not surgery-needing—injuries.
“JC (Cullar) has been in pain pretty much the whole season . Macoy Marcos got hurt and has been having ankle problems. Nayve has been having ankle problems. Oczon’s foot has been hurting him also, so we’re not completely healthy,” admitted Tiu last November 22 in their final elimination game against San Beda.
Oczon’s injury woes also piled up as he suffered an ankle sprain early in the first quarter after stepping on Kyle Tolentino’s foot after a shot.
The masked guard is still not cleared to play in game two.
Still, Tiu knows physicality is just one part of the game. Not backing down against the defending champion is one of them.
“We keep allowing ourselves to get bullied, so we have to man up a bit and play a little bit tougher.”
Game two of the NCAA Finals happens on Sunday, 2 pm, at Araneta Coliseum.