MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) The Arellano Chiefs overhauled a double-digit deficit to take down San Sebastian, 65-63, to open their campaign in the NCAA Season 97 men's basketball tournament on Sunday at La Salle Greenhills.
The Chiefs trailed by double-digits in the third quarter but leaned on big shots by Justin Arana and Jordan Sta. Ana to work their way back in the final period.
A Gelo Sablan triple with 2:38 to go pushed Arellano ahead for the first time, 62-60, but disaster struck the Chiefs in the next possession when Arana went down with a right knee injury.
Arellano had forced San Sebastian's JM Calma into a miss from long distance with 1:49 to go, but in the process lost Arana who appeared to hit his knee against a Golden Stag. He did not return to the game and was stretchered out just as the Chiefs were putting the finishing touches on their triumph.
A three-pointer by Jessie Sumoda gave the Golden Stags their last lead, 63-62, with 1:37 to go, but Sablan fished for a foul and knocked down the go-ahead free throws with 47 seconds to play, 64-63.
San Sebastian had their chances, with Santa Ana bricking two free throws with nine seconds to go. But the Arellano guard grabbed his own miss, and the Stags were forced to foul Kalen Doromal who made one of two shots to peg the final score.
Rommel Calahat's three-pointer at the buzzer hit back iron for the Golden Stags.
"First game namin ito after two years, wala kaming tune up games so nangangapa pa," Arellano coach Cholo Martin said. "Buti na lang, naka-adjust kami."
The coach praised his players who didn't fold after seeing their star big man leave the game due to injury. Sablan, in particular, stepped up in the clutch and finished with eight points and six rebounds.
"Nag-usap-usap sila. Depensa taaga 'yung kailangan namin, kasi lamang kami ng two points noong na-injure (si Justin)," said Martin. "Kailangan talaga namin ay dumepensa, so luckily, nakakuha kami ng bola."
Arana had 16 points, 15 rebounds, and four blocks in over 35 minutes of action for the Chiefs, while Santa Ana finished with 14 points, two rebounds, and two assists.
Ichie Altamirano led the Stags with 16 points, and Calma added 13 points and nine rebounds. But San Sebastian's offense took a dip in the final quarter, where they were out-scored 20-10 by the Chiefs.
ARELLANO 65 -- Arana 16, Sta. Ana 14, Valencia 9, Sablan 8, Doromal 7, Talampas 2, Carandang 2, Uri 2, Caballero 2, Ababstillas 2, Concepcion 1, Oliva 0, Steinl 0, Dela Cruz 0.
SAN SEBASTIAN 63 -- Altamirano 16, Calma 13, Villapando 10, Calahat 8, Sumoda 8, Are 4, Una 2, Desoyo 2, Ra. Gabat 0, Cosari 0, Re. Gabat 0, Loristo 0.
Quarters: 13-14, 29-33, 45-53, 65-63.