MANILA -- St. Benilde turned back a fiesty Mapua, 79-72, to notch its second straight victory in the 90th NCAA basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City on Friday.
Team captain Mark Romero came through with a career-high 26 points including 5 in the final 3 minutes when the Blazers unleashed an 11-5 run to turn a 1-point deficit into a win.
It was their second straight victory after upsetting last year's runner-up Letran, 85-71, last Monday.
Jonathan Grey scored 17 points on top of 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 1 block to help St. Benilde improve to a 2-3 (win-loss) record.
"These guys are making a statement that we're heartbreak kids no more," said St. Benilde coach Gabby Velasco.
The Blazers nearly blew it though as they watched their 18-point lead, their biggest in the game early in the third quarter, vanish as the Cardinals whipped up a series of runs that saw them seize a 68-67 lead on 2 free throws by Carlos Isit with a little over 3 minutes to go.
It turned out to be Mapua's last hurrah as Paolo Taha, Grey and Romero scored in succession to turn the tide against Mapua.
"We just didn't panic in the end, that was the key," said the 23-year-old Romero, who played a season with the Far Eastern U Tams in the UAAP several years back before transferring to St. Benilde.
Mapua, led by Leo Gabo's 16 points, fell to its 6th straight defeat.
St. Benilde 79 -- Romero 26, Grey 17, Sinco 8, Taha 8, Bartolo 8, Argamino 5, Jonson 3, Mercado 3, Ongteco 1, Nayve 0, Deles 0, Altamirano 0.
Mapua 72 -- Gabo 16, Isit 14, Saitanan 14, Eriobu 13, Estrella 8, Biteng 2, Layug 2, Cantos 2, Villasenor 1, Canaynay 0.
Quarterscores: 23-17, 39-31, 61-50, 79-72