MANILA - San Sebastian relied on its defense to turn back a gritty St. Benilde side, 74-72, in the 90th NCAA basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City on Friday.
The Stags were having a hard time keeping their offense running during the final 7 minutes but were able to shoot 5 free throws and shackle the Blazers to escape with their third win against a loss.
"We knew our strength is inside so we try to pound it in as much as we can and get those free throws if we couldn't make baskets," said San Sebastian coach Topex Robinson. "It also helped us that we took away their outside shots and penetrations."
St. Benilde had a chance to send the game into overtime but Jonathan Grey's last-second 3-point shot hit nothing but air as time expired. The Blazers fell to its third straight setback.
Up by just two points after the break, skipper Jovit dela Cruz and Fil-Aussie Bradwyn Guinto combined for 15 points in sparking a series of runs and erecting a 13-point lead, its biggest in the game, in the third quarter.
Perez tried to carry the fight for the Stags by unloading 9 of his 15 points in the final period but it wasn't enough as the Blazers clawed their way back within two, 73-71, on a step-back triple by Grey with 1.27 minutes remaining.
The Stags managed to hold fort though and while they scored only a point the rest of the way, they also held the Blazers to just a 1 free throw to preserve the win.
Only in his first game as a freshman, Rhanzelle Yong , who came from San Sebastian's high school team, had a career-best 16 points on an impressive 7-of-10 shooting. He also secured 8 boards and a block.
"I owe it to the school to give them back what they taught me as a high school player," said the 19-year-old Yong, a cousin of former NCAA MVP and Stag Ian Sangalang.
San Sebastian bounced back from an 82-79 defeat at the hands of Perpetual Help last week in a game they should have won.
"We're a young team, every game is a learning experience for us," said Robinson.
San Sebastian 74- Dela Cruz 18, Yong 16, Perez 15, Guinto 13, Ortuoste 10, Fabian 2, Balucanag 0, Calisaan 0, Costelo 0, Aquino 0
St. Benilde 72- Romero 17, Nayve 13, Grey 9, Bartolo 7, Taha 6, Ongteco 6, Sinco 4, Argamino 2, Saavedra 0
Quarterscores: 20-22; 40-38; 63-52; 74-72