MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) San Beda University bounced back from its first loss of the season with a hard-earned 67-63 victory against De La Salle-College of St. Benilde (CSB), Tuesday at the La Salle Greenhills Gym.
San Beda squandered a 13-point cushion but got a clutch three-pointer from James Canlas-Kwekuteye in the final minute to secure the victory. Canlas-Kwekuteye finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals in 28 minutes, the only Red Lion in double-figures.
The Red Lions improved to 7-1, bouncing back from a shock loss to Mapua University last week. They also boosted their chances of claiming one of two outright semifinals spots at stake in NCAA Season 97.
San Beda had a 57-44 lead to end the third quarter and was still in control, 63-51, with five minutes left when CSB big man Ladis Lepalam sparked a run for the Blazers. His back-to-back buckets kickstarted a 12-0 blast, capped by another layup from the center that made it a 63-all game with still 1:16 left.
The Blazers got a chance to snatch the lead when Canlas-Kwekuteye was called for an offensive foul, but Robi Nayve's floater with 67 seconds left hit the front of the rim. Canlas-Kwekuteye then made up for his earlier error, banking in the go-ahead three-pointer to put the Red Lions ahead for good, 66-63, with 51 seconds left.
CSB had its chances, but the Blazers misfired on back-to-back triples and a Lepalam jumper from the baseline also rimmed out. They retained possession with 12.6 seconds to go and had a golden opportunity when JB Bahio fouled Nayve on a triple.
Unfortunately for the Blazers, Nayve bricked his first two freebies, forcing him to deliberately miss the third. They couldn't control the rebound, however, and the Red Lions got a free throw to ice the game.
Nave finished with 14 points, while Lepalam had 12 points. JC Cullar added 10, and Will Gozum had a 10-point, 13-rebound double-double. The Blazers concluded their elimination round campaign with a 5-4 win-loss record and will qualify to the play-in tournament.
SAN BEDA 67 -- Kwekuteye 13, Cortez 7, Bahio 6, Penuela 6, Jopia 6, Ynot 6, Cuntapay 6, Cometa 5, Andrada 5, Abuda 4, Gallego 2, Alfaro 1, Amsali 0, Visser 0.
ST. BENILDE 63 -- Nayve 14, Lepalam 12, Cullar 10, Gozum 10, Carlos 9, Benson 6, Publico 2, Lim 0, Flores 0, Marcos 0, Sangco 0, Corteza 0, Tateishi 0.
Quarters: 16-13, 37-27, 57-44, 67-63.