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Blazers, Pirates share top spot

College of Saint Benilde and Lyceum of the Philippines University share the top spot after hammering contrasting victories in the Season 98 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament Wednesday, 28 September at the Filoil EcoOil Arena in San Juan.

The Blazers roared early en route to a convincing 84-72 win over Arellano University while the Pirates had a slow start before eking out an 82-77 victory over University of Perpetual Help System Dalta to gain the top spot with 4-1 win-loss record in the country’s oldest collegiate league.

Letran College, for its part, remains at the second spot with 3-1.

Will Gozum posted his fourth double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds while Mark Sangco and JC Cullar added 11 and 10 markers, respectively, for the Blazers, who stepped on the gas in the second period with a 12-2 bomb to essay the victory.

“We got stops and we were able to run,” Saint Benilde coach Charles Tiu said.

“That’s what we wanted and we played some good defense.”

In the first game, Enoch Valdez bounced back from a scoreless first half to finish with 13 points and three rebounds while Mclaude Guadana chipped in 12 points and two rebounds for the Pirates, who displayed tremendous grace under pressure in the crucial stretch.

With the Altas closing in, 76-78, with only 30.4 seconds left, Enzo Navarro calmly nailed his charities to give the Pirates a four-point cushion, 80-76, with only 13.2 seconds to go.

Then, Navarro applied the finishing touches with two more free throws to seal the victory.

Lyceum head coach Gilbert Malabanan lauded his bench players for stepping up as they scored a combined 40 points with 26 points coming off Perpetual’s turnovers.

“I want them to be always ready. Against Perpetual, my second unit really won this game for us,” Malabanan said, putting emphasis on their slow start and strong finish.

“My second unit was like diesel. They heat up when you put them inside the court. I like the way they do it. Our first group might not have done well, but the second group did their best. They didn’t focus on offense but on defense. They always put the pressure on our opponents.”

Meanwhile, Letran College’s Brent Paraiso and Louie Sangalang were slapped with a one-game suspension after getting ejected in their 67-62 win over Mapua University last Tuesday.

NCAA commissioner Tonichi Pujante formalized the verdict that will see Paraiso and Sangalang missing their much-anticipated match against rival San Beda University on Friday.

Paraiso got ejected after committing an unsportsmanlike foul on Adrian Nocum with 5:38 left in the game while Sangalang was sacked after committing two technical fouls in the final 13.8 seconds.

“I strongly denounce violence in any form in and outside the playing venue. Rest assured that I’ve addressed this with utmost objectivity and compassion,” Pujante said.

The Scores:

First game:

LYCEUM (82) – Valdez 13, Guadaña 12, Umali 10, Penafiel 9, Navarro 9, Cunanan 9, Barba 7, Montano 5, Bravo 4, Larupay 2, Vinoya 2, Villegas 0.

PERPETUAL (77) – Razon 18, Aurin 16, Abis 11, Omega 8, Nitura 8, Martel 6, Egan 5, Flores 2, Boral 2, Barcuma 1, Cuevas 0, Roque 0, Orgo 0, Nunez 0.

QUARTERS:13-20, 35-44, 56-63, 82-77

Second game:

SAINT BENILDE (84) — Gozum 15, Sangco 11, Cullar 10, Lim 7, Corteza 6, Sumabat 6, Flores 6, Cajucom 6, Carlos 5, Nayve 5, Marcos 5, Pasturan 2, Lepalam 0, Davis 0, Mara 0.

ARELLANO (72) — Doromal 23, Flores 15, Mallari 11, Menina 7, Oliva 5, Talampas 4, Tolentino 4, Abastillas 2, Oftana 1, Punzalan 0, Sunga 0.

Quarters: 20-20, 52-35, 67-49, 84-72.

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