De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde will enter the NCAA Season 98 Final Four with a twice-to-beat advantage after they clinched the bonus with an 82-73 win over San Beda University on Tuesday at the Filoil EcoOil Centre.
Mark Sangco posted team-highs of 19 points and 12 rebounds while Will Gozum and Miggy Corteza scored 15 apiece for the Blazers.
Gozum, who grabbed 10 rebounds in a double-double performance, also led the second half turnaround as he tallied 12 points, six rebounds, and two blocks in the last two quarters.
Benilde, which will be playing in the semifinal round for the first time in 20 years, finished their elimination round campaign with a 14-4 record while San Beda ended at 12-6.
An aggressive San Beda side opened up an early lead, 16-6, thanks to seven unanswered points from a James Kwekuteye triple sandwiched between a pair of midrange jumper by JB Bahio. But Mark Sangco kept Benilde in the game as he scored 11 if the Blazers’ 17 points, helping them battle back to within three, 20-17. The first quarter ended with the game tied, 26-all.
Benilde struck first in the second, 28-26, before San Beda rattled off an 11-0 run, kicked off by a Kwekuteye four-point play and capped by another triple from the Red Lions’ star scorer. San Beda was able to maintain the lead and entered the break leading 51-42.
Kwekuteye tallied 17 points, including 4-of-8 shooting from three, and five assists in an explosive first half. Sangco, meanwhile, was a shade under a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds at the half.
Gozum, who scored only three points on 1-of-6 shooting in the first half, started to get going in the third period. With his team down by 13 points, 55-42, the Benilde big man went and scored nine points in a 19-3 run that turned the game around for the Blazers. His fastbreak layup at the 2:53 mark gave his team the lead at 59-58 and back-to-back baskets from Corteza and JC Cullar made it a 63-58 advantage with a minute left in the period.
Benilde outscored San Beda, 21-9, in the third to hold a 63-60 lead heading into the final period.
The Blazers then opened the final period on another 8-0 run. Sangco connected on back-to-back baskets before Prince Carlos and Corteza both finished in transition to make it an 11-point game, 71-60.
San Beda started to battle back, coming to within nine, 78-69, on a Bahio coast-to-coast layup. But their momentum slowed after a crucial call late in the game.
Gozum went down after a rebound holding his hand near his right eye in what was initially a no-call. But the referees stopped the play and made a review, eventually calling an unsportsmanlike foul on Bahio, who was seen swiping at the ball and hitting Gozum’s face. A technical foul was also called on San Beda, which resulted in three free throws plus possession for Benilde. The Blazers converted two of those free throws, one each from Migs Oczon and Gozum, 80-69.
San Beda continued to challenge after that, coming back to within seven, 80-73, but Oczon drilled in a clutch jumper to make it 82-73 with 1:22 remaining.
Benilde outscored San Beda in the second half, 40-22.
Bahio led San Beda 18 points and 13 rebounds while Kwekuteye finished with 18 after scoring only one point in the second half.
The Blazers swept the season series with the Red Lions, winning the first round meeting, 78-69.
Benilde 82 - Sangco 19, Corteza 15, Gozum 15, Pasturan 13, Oczon 9, Carlos 5, Nayve 2, Cullar 2, Lepalam 2, Marcos 2, Davis 0.
San Beda 73 - Kwekuteye 18, Bahio 18, Cometa 12, Cortez 6, Andrada 6, Ynot 4, Alfaro 4, Cuntapay 3, Sanchez 2, Visser 0.
Quarters: 26-26, 42-51, 63-60, 82-73.
—JMB, GMA Integrated News