MANILA, Philippines – The College of St. Benilde Junior Blazers' stunning run in the postseason of the NCAA Season 93 juniors tournament continues.
The Junior Blazers rallied past defending champion Mapua Red Robins, 74-68, in Game 1 of the Season 93 Finals to come to within one game of claiming the championship on Friday at the Araneta Coliseum.
This was the Blazers' fourth consecutive victory in the postseason since ending their elimination round campaign with three straight defeats. LSGH needed to beat San Sebastian in a playoff for the fourth seed, then stunned defending champion San Beda twice in the Final Four to reach the Finals.
Joel Cagulangan again came through for the Junior Blazers with 17 points on top of eight rebounds, five assists, and four steals. Joshua David added 17 points and 14 rebounds.
The Red Robins, anchored by Season 83 MVP Will Gozum, surged to a 37-33 halftime lead. Their advantage dissipated early in the second half, however, as LSGH opened the third quarter on a 10-1 run to claim a 43-38 lead that they would never relinquish.
Still, Mapua continued to threaten. The Junior Blazers lost burly big man Inand Fornillos to a disqualifying foul with 5:27 left in the third quarter after he was alleged to have thrown a closed fist on Gozum, and the Red Robins came to within four points with still over four minutes left in the game.
That was when Cagulangan took charge. He came up with back-to-back steals that led to assists to Joshua Marcos and Joshua David. LSGH surged back on top, 74-66, with 2:12 left, and the Red Robins were unable to threaten again.
Fornillos still finished with 14 points and eight rebounds on top of four blocks before he was ejected. He is questionable for Game 2 on Thursday, when the Junior Blazers gun for the title.
Gozum led Mapua with 16 points on seven-of-17 shooting, while grabbing 19 rebounds. His frontcourt partner, Warren Bonifacio, had 13 boards, but managed only six points on three-of-12 shooting from the field.
CSB-LSGH 74 – Cagulangan 17, David 17, Marcos 15, Fornilos 14, Morales 4, Mosqueda 4, Sangco 3, Lao 0, Perez 0, Dela Cruz 0, Lepalam 0, Cruz 0
MAPUA 68 – Gozum 16, Jabel 13, Escamis 11, Lacap 9, Bonifacio 6, Enriquez 6, Garcia 4, Ramos 3, Arches 0
QUARTER SCORES: 19-20, 33-37, 59-52, 74-68