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Saint Benilde refuses to surrender, forces decider

College of Saint Benilde refused to wave the white towel of surrender as it eked out 76-71 win over Letran College in Game 2 of their Season 98 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament best-of-three series yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Newly-crowned Most Valuable Player Will Gozum knocked down the go-ahead layup in the final 55.4 seconds before Migs Oczon scored on a turnaround jumper with 20.2 seconds left to secure the victory that sent this fierce series into a winner-take-all Game 3.

The sudden-death battle is set next Sunday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

Gozum, the third Blazer to win the MVP plum since Sunday Salvacion in 2002 and Jay Sagad in 2005, dropped 21 points and 10 rebounds, including the biggest basket that gave Saint Benilde its first win in the finals since 11 October 2000 when Mark Magsumbol and Al Magpayo powered it to a 74-61 victory over San Sebastian College in Game 2 of Season 76 finals.

On the same note, the Blazers dealt the Knights first loss in a best-of-three finals series since 15 November 2019 when they lost to rival San Beda University, 76-79, in Season 95.

Aside from Gozum, Miggy Corteza also helped in the scoring department as he registered 21 points and 10 rebounds while Oczon bucked an injured ankle to finish with 15 points and seven rebounds.

“We just try to believe really that we can compete with this team. We talked about having to match their physicality so that we can’t let them bully us out there and I am happy that we responded for the most part in this game,” Saint Benilde head coach Charles Tiu said.

“Obviously, you see how important he (Oczon) is on the team. He played well and he made a big shot today.”

Brent Paraiso carried the scoring cudgels, finishing with 16 points for Letran, which missed the services of veteran playmaker Fran Yu.

Yu, who was part of the Knights’ back-to-back champion teams, was ejected after elbowing Mark Sangco in the 5:29 mark of the second quarter, putting him in danger of missing the all-important Game 3 next week.

Prior the game, Gozum cemented himself as the league’s best player after clinching the MVP plum as well as spots in the Mythical Team and Defensive Team.

Joining the 23-year-old Gozum in the league’s premier unit are James Kwekuteye and JB Bahio of San Beda University, Cade Flores of Arellano University and King Caralipio of Letran.

Gozum joined Bahio, Flores, Mark Omega of University of Perpetual Help System Dalta and Rommel Calahat of San Sebastian in the Defensive Team while Flores emerged as Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year and Shawn Umali of Lyceum of the Philippines University was named as Most Improved Player.

The Scores:
CSB (76) — Gozum 21, Corteza 21, Oczon 15, Nayve 10, Pasturan 3, Sangco 3, Carlos 3, Cullar 0, Marcos 0, Davis 0, Lepalam 0, Flores 0, Lim 0.
LETRAN (71) — Paraiso 16, Sangalang 11, Reyson 11, Caralipio 9, Yu 6, Santos 6, Javillonar 5, Olivario 4, Ariar 3, Guarino 0, Go 0.
QUARTERS: 20-23, 34-45, 64-59, 76-71.

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