MANILA - College of St. Benilde absorbed a potentially costly loss on Tuesday, when they bowed to Mapua 86-83 in the NCAA Season 94 men’s basketball tournament.
It was the Blazers’ second consecutive loss of the second round, following a heartbreaking 66-65 defeat to San Sebastian wherein Justin Gutang’s potential game-winning bucket was judged to have come after the buzzer.
With their loss to the Cardinals, the Blazers now have a 7-5 win-loss record -- still good for fourth place. However, the Perpetual Help Altas (6-5) are now breathing down their necks, being just half a game behind for the last spot in the semifinals.
The back-to-back defeats -- to teams that had inferior records than theirs -- may come back to haunt the Blazers later in the season, when the race for that last Final 4 berth tightens up even more.
“We haven’t really been in this kind of situation,” said Coach TY Tang, who is in his second season of calling the shots for the Blazers. “It’s been a very, very long time. I don’t think any of them right now has been in that situation, at least in the NCAA.”
Tang compared to journey to that of climbing a mountain, trying to reach the summit.
“If you don’t really look at the next step to get there, ‘pag nadulas itong kamay mo or nadulas ‘yung paa mo, you get all the way down,” he said.
“That’s us right now,” he admitted. “Right now, it’s one more mistake that we commit, and we might just lose it.”
Tang knows the reason for their recent slump: “It’s the immaturity of our team,” he acknowledged.
“I felt that we were overconfident coming into the second round,” he explained. “We felt that we are in the Final 4 because of the rankings.”
The Blazers were ranked in the Top 4 at the end of the first round, but since then they have won just one game and dropped two close contents to opponents that they could conceivably beat.
Tang theorized that some of his players may have been caught looking too far ahead, after the success they had in the first round.
“These guys were maybe impatient, looking forward to the bigger picture of things, when they had to really take it a step at a time,” he said.
“Maybe it got into our minds that we’re that good to be a contender already,” he also said.
If that is indeed the case, then the loss to Mapua should be a wake-up call for the Blazers. The Cardinals only had three wins heading into the game, but they thoroughly outplayed St. Benilde for most of the first half, then proved to be more composed in crunch time.
Justin Serrano, Laurenz Victoria, and Warren Bonifacio all knocked down big shots for Mapua, with Victoria manufacturing open shots for his teammates. On the other end, the Blazers went to Gutang repeatedly, but the versatile forward was unable to duplicate his heroics against San Sebastian, when he nearly dragged them to victory.
“I feel we still are not even part of that Final 4,” said Tang. “We still have to work for it day by day in the practices, in our preparations to win, both physically and mentally.”
“So hopefully, we pick up by right now,” the young coach also said. “Hopefully by now, their minds are already in that, so when we practice tomorrow, everybody’s in the same page, one direction for us to be able to prepare our minds and bodies for Friday’s game against Arellano.”
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