MANILA, Philippines -- De La Salle-College of St. Benilde (CSB) weathered a stunning fourth-quarter rally from Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) to seize a hard-earned 69-66 triumph in their first game of the NCAA Season 95 men's basketball tournament on Tuesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The Blazers took a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter but fell prey to the Generals' defensive pressure, allowing EAC to score easy points in transition while Jethro Mendoza found his mark from beyond the arc.
Fortunately for CSB, their lead proved to be just enough as James Pasturan's split at the line with 2.4 seconds left pegged the final score, and JP Maguliano misfired in his attempt at a triple at the buzzer.
"We played well in the first half," said CSB coach TY Tang. "(But) again, it's all about consistency and sustainability. I felt in the second half, we kinda of rattled out, and probably our egos came in."
"Instead of playing as a team, our individual talents tried to overcome the game. Hopefully, we learn from it, and we get better by the day throughout this season," he added.
The Blazers were shorthanded, as they played without Cameroonian big man Clement Leutcheu (quad strain) and swingman Yankie Haruna (broken jaw). Still, they led comfortably for most of the game, going up 65-48 with 7:13 to go.
But the Generals roared back, using a zone defense to fluster the Blazers, while getting big shots on the end from Mendoza. His two three-pointers highlighted a 17-2 run for EAC, capped by a Kriss Gurtiza bucket that made it a one-possesion game, 67-65, with still 2:16 left.
"I was telling them to settle down," Tang said of his team. "We were being so rapid in all of our movements and wanting to keep the lead. But instead of keeping the lead, just because of our eagerness to score, it went the other way around. Nag-backfire sa amin."
Both teams exchanged shot-clock violations after that, and EAC flubbed a chance to take the lead when Mendoza's triple swirled in and out of the ring with 39.0 ticks to go. The Generals still had a chance when Justin Gutang misfired on the other end, but in the ensuing scramble, the ball went off an EAC player allowing CSB to retain possession.
Off a duty foul by JC Luciano, Pasturan split his free throws for a 68-65 lead. On the other end, Marwin Taiwan also made just one of two charities, keeping it a one-possession game with three seconds to go, 68-66.
Pasturan left the door open for the Generals when he made only the second of two free throws, but Maguliano's potential game-tying bucket hit the side of the rim as time expired.
Pasturan led CSB with 19 points, while Gutang put up 17 points and 12 rebounds. The Blazers won despite shooting just 36.11% from the field, as they made 11 three-pointers in the game to only two for EAC.
Maguliano finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 assists, while Mendoza had 16 points and accounted for his team's only two conversions from beyond the arc. JC Luciano had 8 points and 11 boards.
CSB 69 - Pasturan 19, Gutang 17, Naboa 7, Lepalam 7, Carlos 5, Dixon 4, Nayve 3, Flores 3, Belgica 2, Sangco 2, Young 0
EAC 66 - Maguliano 18, Mendoza 16, Luciano 8, Taywan 6, Tampoc 6, Gonzales 4, Gurtiza 4, Estacio 4, Martin 0, Carlos 0, Corilla 0, Cadua 0, Dayrit 0, De Guzman 0
Quarter scores: 17-12, 37-23, 57-44, 69-66
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