NCAA JC Cullar and Jimboy Pasturan hugs coach Charles Tiu after Benilde reached the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four for the first time in 20 years. NCAA-GMA photo

St. Benilde back in the NCAA Final Four

November 15, 2022 Theodore P. Jurado 453 views

AFTER 20 years, College of Saint Benilde is back in the Final Four of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

With six gamedays left in the double-round eliminations, the Blazers completed the semifinals cast with a 83-78 win over San Sebastian yesterday at the Filoil EcoOil Centre.

Posting its 11th win in 15 games, Benilde reached the Final Four for the first time since 2002, during Sunday Salvacion’s MVP season. The result also gave idle San Beda a 16th consecutive Final Four berth.

Migs Oczon, coming off a Will Gozum screen, converted the dagger three-pointer over Ken Villapando in the final 1:12 that gave the Blazers the needed separation at 83-76.

After the final buzzer was sounded, Benilde players hugged at the court, as the long and agonizing drought of not making past the elimination round has ended.

Gozum, who was only three-years-old when the Blazers last reached the Final Four, had a double-double of 25 points and 10 rebounds to go along with six assists and two steals while Miggy Corteza contributed 18 points.

Benilde finished fourth at the end of the eliminations in the pandemic-shortened Season 97, but due to the play-in format, the Taft-based squad missed the Final Four in coach Charles Tiu’s first year with the program.

“It feels great, to be honest. It’s one of the goals we had this season, especially since not a lot of people expected us to be in the Final Four,” said Tiu. “It’s about time the school makes it to the Final Four. I hope we can still go farther.”

The Blazers made sure that there will be no disappointments this time, as they overcame a lot of adversities to make it to the top four. Benilde won despite missing the services of Mark Sangco and Chris Flores, who serve the second of two-game suspension for their involvement in Jose Rizal University’s John Amores violent outburst a week ago.

Now in second place, the Blazers still have a shot of securing a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four. Benilde is holding a half-a-game lead over third-running Lyceum of the Philippines University (11-5) in the race for the No. 2 ranking.

Defending champion Letran remains on top of the standings with a 12-3 card. The Knights will renew their rivalry with the Red Lions in a match-up that has a lot of implications in the Final Four rankings at 3 p.m. today at the San Juan arena.

Coach Egay Macaraya was ejected in the final 4.1 seconds, with the Stags trailing 40-44. He had an argument with the referees led by crew chief Ricor Buaron, requesting for a challenge regarding Carlo Lim’s foul on Alex Desoyo.

Very insistent for a request, Buaron instead booked Macaraya for a disqualifying foul.

After getting tossed, Macaraya refused to leave the court and still insisted that he did nothing wrong and was just asking for a coach’s challenge that they still have but Buaron, an international referee, is denying their right to for the request.

Eventually, the Stags were granted the review that they were seeking, after a long delay.

In a duel of also-rans, Arellano University overcame University of Perpetual Help System Dalta, 86-81, to post its seventh win in 16 games, dislodging San Sebastian (6-9) in fifth place.

The Altas, meanwhile, dropped to 7-10.

The scores:

First Game

Benilde (83) — Gozum 25, Corteza 18, Carlos 14, Oczon 10, Pasturan 8, Cullar 4, Lepalam 4, Nayve 0, Marcos 0, Sumabat 0, Davis 0, Lim 0.
SSC-R (78) — Altamirano 11, Calahat 11, Villapando 10, Desoyo 10, Sumoda 7, Escobido 7, Are 5, Cosari 5, Suico 5, Una 5, Aguilar 2, Yambing 0, Shanoda 0, Concha 0.
Quarterscores: 20-21, 44-40, 63-57, 83-78

Second Game

Arellano (86) — Menina 25, Doromal 20, Flores 10, Abastillas 7, Talampas 6, Oftana 5, Mallari 4, Sunga 4, Oliva 3, Tolentino 2, Mantua 0, Domingo 0.
Perpetual (81) — Barcuma 16, Ferreras 16, Orgo 14, Razon 9, Egan 8, Boral 6, Abis 4, Omega 4, Flores 2, Cuevas 2, Roque 0, Movida 0, Nitura 0.
Quarterscores: 22-20, 44-35, 78-53, 86-81