MANILA, Philippines – College of St. Benilde had a brief scare, but the Blazers made sure there won’t be another upset.
The Blazers bounced back from a heartbreaking loss with an 85-72 ripping of the Mapua Cardinals to keep hold of the top spot in the NCAA Season 98 men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday, October 19 at the FilOil EcoOil Centre.
Will Gozum hit a career-high 25 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 4 assists to lead the Blazers, who trailed 61-64 after three quarters before turning it around in the final period.
Miggy Corteza also chipped in 22 points and 8 boards in the win as the Blazers rebounded from a stunning 80-75 loss to the erstwhile winless Emilio Aguinaldo College.
The Blazers stayed solo on top at 8-2, while the Cardinals skidded to their ninth loss in 11 games.
Benilde took advantage of Mapua’s lackluster defense early to lead by eight, 24-16, before a thrilling second quarter where the Cardinals rallied and grabbed the lead after a Paulo Hernandez trey, 30-28.
A poor defensive display plagued Benilde as Mapua stayed in the fight and claimed the upper hand at the end of the third quarter, 64-61.
But Gozum took the helm for the Blazers in the fourth canto as the Cardinals also struggled to convert buckets.
Warren Bonifacio paced Mapua with 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals along with Jeric Pido and Toby Agustin chipping in 13 and 12 points, respectively.
St. Benilde 85 – Gozum 25, Corteza 22, Cullar 8, Nayve 6, Oczon 6, Sangco 5, Carlos 5, Pasturan 2, Lepalam 2, Marcos 2, Flores 2, Davis 0.
Mapua 72 – Bonifacio 21, Pido 13, Agustin 12, Hernandez 10, Nocum 6, Cuenco 5, Soriano 3, Salenga 2, Mercado 0, Lacap 0, Garcia 0, Parinas 0.
Quarters: 24-16, 40-42, 61-64, 85-72.
– Ivy Ferrer/Rappler.com