MANILA, Philippines – The College of St. Benilde Blazers leaned on Paulo Taha's third quarter explosion to pull the rug from under last season's losing finalist Letran, 85-71, and barge into the win column of the NCAA Season 90 men's basketball tournament Monday at the Arena in San Juan.
Taha unloaded 12 of his season-high 24 points in the third quarter, helping the Blazers blow away the Knights to finally notch their first win after opening the season with three straight defeats.
The Knights fell to their fourth defeat against just one win in the absence of head coach Caloy Garcia, who was serving a one-game suspension after he was assessed with two technical fouls in another loss to Jose Rizal University last week.
Not even the presence of point guard Mark Cruz, whose suspension was downgraded to just a warning that gave him the go-signal to play in the game, could save the Knights from absorbing another defeat.
Cruz led his team with 16 points but didn't get enough support from his teammates to stop Taha and the Blazers.
St. Benilde 85- Taha 24, Romero 12, Grey 11, Saavedra 10, Nayve 8, Jonson 7, Bartolo 6, Altamirano 3, Pajarillaga 2, Sinco 2, Ongteco 0
Letran 71- Cruz 16, Nambatac 10, Gabawan 10, Racal 10, Ruaya 9, Publico 6, Castro 5, Quinto 3, Luib 2, Calvo 0, Saldua 0, Tambeling 0, Singontiko 0
Quarterscores: 15-all; 42-31; 65-51; 85-71