MANILA, Philippines – Perpetual booked its Final Four berth in NCAA Season 97 with a stunning 76-64 win over St. Benilde in their play-in game at the San Juan Arena on Wednesday, May 4.
The Altas missed the services of top gunner Kim Aurin due to chickenpox but got timely contributions from John Abis and JP Boral to secure their first Final Four berth since Season 94 more than three years ago.
Abis churned out 12 of his 14 points in the second half on top of 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 block, while Boral set the tone in the wire-to-wire win by scoring all of his 11 points in the first two quarters.
With Boral hitting a perfect 3-of-3 clip from three-point land in the first half, Perpetual enjoyed a lead as big as 15 points and entered the break up 40-32.
The Blazers made some runs here and there, but the Altas stretched their lead back to double digits on several occasions on their way to completing the semifinals cast.
Perpetual will face unbeaten Letran, which totes a twice-to-beat advantage, in the Final Four on Sunday, May 8.
“I told the players that we should play for Kim Aurin. Let us give it to him,” said Altas head coach Myk Saguiguit in a mix of Filipino and English.
Jielo Razon delivered a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds to go with 3 assists for Perpetual, which won four straight games to clinch the last Final Four seat.
The Altas beat Lyceum and Emilio Aguinaldo College to end the elimination round and qualify for the play-in tournament before they overcame Arellano to arrange a duel with Benilde.
Jeff Egan and Cris Pagaran churned out 13 and 12 points, respectively, for Perpetual and combined for 10 rebounds.
It was a heartbreaking exit for the Blazers, who fell short of ending a 20-year Final Four drought.
Benilde would have reached the semifinals as the No. 4 seed if the NCAA used the old format, but the league staged a play-in tournament for the No. 3 to No. 6 seeds.
JC Cullar tallied 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals to pace the Blazers, who were without suspended forward AJ Benson.
The NCAA slapped Benson with a one-game suspension for committing two unsportsmanlike fouls in their 57-63 play-in loss to No. 3 seed San Beda last Sunday.
Will Gozum posted 13 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 blocks in the loss.
Perpetual 76 – Abis 14, Razon 13, Egan 13, Pagaran 12, Boral 11, Omega 6, Martel 4, Cuevas 2, Sevilla 1, Barcuma 0.
St. Benilde 64 – Cullar 18, Gozum 13, Flores 10, Nayve 8, Corteza 8, Lim 4, Lepalam 2, Marcos 1, Carlos 0, Sangco 0, Publico 0, Davis 0, Mosqueda 0.
Quarter scores: 21-14, 40-32, 59-47, 76-64.