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MANILA, Philippines – The LPU Pirates rode a late offensive wave in its first game of the NCAA Season 99 men’s basketball tournament and downed the undermanned St. Benilde Blazers, 85-81, at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday, September 24.
As the Blazers played without suspended MVP Will Gozum, JM Bravo took full advantage and led the nail-biting win with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go with 8 rebounds in just 21 minutes off the bench.
PBA-bound star Enoch Valdez backstopped with 16 points on a 5-of-12 clip as the Pirates erupted with a telling 24-7 run bridging the last two quarters, turning a 48-55 third quarter deficit to a 72-62 separation at the 6:58 mark of the fourth off a Bravo putback layup.
Bruiser Shawn Umali showed much-needed finesse in the clutch, sinking two free throws to give Lyceum a two-possession lead, 85-81, with 7.4 seconds left, essentially putting the game away from Benilde’s reach for good despite Robi Nayve’s best efforts down the stretch.
Two-way ace Miggy Corteza paced the loss with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting and 2-of-5 from three to go with 5 blocks and 4 rebounds.
Migs Oczon, Prince Carlos, and Nayve scored 13 apiece, with Nayve threatening the Pirates off a short 4-point burst in the final 13.8 seconds to get within two, 81-83.
Gozum will make his Season 99 debut on Friday, September 29 at the FilOil EcoOil Centre, as the bounce-back-seeking Blazers face a JRU side coming off an overtime stunner of three-peat champion Letran.
LPU 85 – Bravo 18, Valdez 16, Umali 14, Barba 11, Cunanan 6, Penafiel 6, Villegas 5, Guadana 5, Montano 2, Omandac 2, Versoza 0, Aviles 0.
St. Benilde 81 – Corteza 21, Nayve 13, Oczon 13, Carlos 13, Flores 9, Sangco 4, Jarque 4, Marcos 2, Turco 2, Marasigan 0, Davis 0, Jalalon 0, Mara 0, Cajucom 0.
Quarters: 12-20, 37-45, 62-57, 85-81.