San Beda University dropped the hammer on hapless College of St. Benilde, 95-73, to remain perfect in the NCAA Season 95 seniors' basketball tournament at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan Thursday afternoon.
The three-time defending champions unleashed a devastating 27-8 run in the third quarter to seize control of the game, clinching their 17th straight win to start the season. CSB's Final Four hopes have been dashed once more as they dropped to 7-9.
Down 50-45 early in the second half, the tables turned in favor of San Beda after Benilde's Justin Gutang was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul, his fourth personal, at the 7:24 mark of the third period.
Gutang's loss was big for CSB for he had been hot in the first half, scoring 16 of his team's 42.
Following Gutang's untimely benching, MVP frontrunner Calvin Oftana and reserve Peter Alfaro combined for 23 points of San Beda's 31 in the canto, as they took a 72-58 lead heading to the final chapter. They also outscored their opponents, 31-16.
Things continued to roll for the Mendiola-based squad in the payoff period, building a lead as much as 28 points, 88-60.
CSB actually led at the end of the first half after mounting a 13-0 blitz to close the period, capped off by an alley-oop buzzer beater by Mark Sangco.
Their poor first half performance actually earned the Red Lions a tongue-lashing from mentor Boyet Fernandez at the locker room.
"My message was simple to my players at halftime. They should be ashamed of themselves. They've been playing well for the first 16. Why be different on the 17th?" said the decorated coach.
Oftana led the Red Lions once again with 29 points, nine rebounds, and five assists off the bench. His efficiency rating was also off the roof, ending up with a +40.
James Canlas flirted with a triple-double, tallying 21 markers, nine boards, and seven dimes.
Gutang was the lone double-digit scorer for CSB, finishing with 21 points.
San Beda has a chance to earn an outright Finals appearance against modern-day rivals Lyceum Pirates on October 17.
Mapua def. SSC-R, 90-73
In the second game, Mapua University sustained its Final Four bid with a big 90-73 win against erstwhile San Sebastian College.
The fifth-place Cardinals (8-8) are now just one game behind the Golden Stags (9-8) for the last spot in the playoffs.
Much like the first game of the day's doubleheader, the third quarter had become the turning point for the winning squad. Mapua's lead whittled to just one, 48-47, courtesy of a jumper by RK Ilagan at the 6:50 mark.
However, the Cardinals never relinquished their second-half lead, and was able to build a comfortable 60-52 lead by the end of the third quarter, outscoring their opponents 22-21.
The fourth quarter tested their mettle and passed it with flying colors, managing to build a 15-point spread in the last 1:10.
Their largest lead, however, did not come until the final margin.
Noah Lugo led Mapua's offense with 22 points, 15 of which came from rainbow country. Laurenz Victoria and Cyril Gonzales combined for 33 markers.
For San Sebastian, RK Ilagan managed to post 19 points and six rebounds while Allyn Bulanadi added 18 of his own.
With the win, the battle for fourth remains between San Sebastian, Mapua, and CSB.
For their final two outings, Baste will face Arellano and Perpetual; while Mapua looks to battle Perpetual and CSB. CSB, meanwhile, will play against JRU and Mapua.
"We're just looking for a tie with Baste for the [playoff for fourth]," said a beaming first-year head coach Randy Alcantara. "We need to bounce back from our first round performance. We just need to take revenge against the teams that beat us then, one game at a time."