MANILA, Philippines -- San Sebastian College weathered an inspired effort from Arellano University to claim an 85-82 win, and in the process, move closer to securing a Final 4 spot in the NCAA Season 95 men's basketball tournament.
The Golden Stags' victory on Tuesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre gave them a 10-7 win-loss record, and assured them of at least a playoff for the last spot in the semifinals. It also formally eliminated De La Salle-College of St. Benilde from the semis race.
RK Ilagan had 20 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists, while Allyn Bulanadi put up 19 points and 8 rebounds for the Golden Stags.
"With all the limited players na I have and the injuries, 'yung playoff na 'yun, medyo mahirap pa rin para sa amin 'yun," said San Sebastian coach Egay Macaraya, who is counting on his wards to beat University of Perpetual Help in their final game to lock up the last semis berth.
"Hopefully, maka-recover ang mga bata. At this point, medyo mababa ang laro," he admitted.
The Stags appeared to have broken the game open in the third quarter, when they pulled ahead by 14 points, 54-40, behind Alvin Capobres.
But an untimely injury to Justin Arana fired up the Chiefs, and with Kent Salado leading the way, they uncorked a 16-3 run to head into the final quarter down by just one point, 57-56.
A three-point play by Salado gave the Chiefs their first taste of the lead in the second half, 67-65, but that was when Ilagan took over.
The veteran guard knocked down a pair of free throws to knot the count, before converting back-to-back lay-ups to make it a 71-67 game. A baseline drive by Bulanadi for a bucket made it 73-67 with 3:43 to go, and the Chiefs were never able to recover.
Three-point shots by Salado and Alfren Gayosa kept the Chiefs in the game, but Stags had an answer every time. Ken Villapando beat the shotclock buzzer with his own triple, and Bulanadi got to the rim at will for crucial buckets to keep Arellano at bay.
Salado finished with 26 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals, while Arana had 13 points before being stretchered back to the locker room after hurting his right ankle.
The Stags didn't come off unscathed, too, as Capobres had to be helped back to the bench after aggravating an injury of his own in the fourth period.
Arellano dropped to 4-13.
SAN SEBASTIAN 85 -- Ilagan 20, Bulanadi 19, Calma 15, Capobres 15, Villapando 12, Calahat 4, Tero 0, Desoyo 0, Cosari 0, Altamirano 0, Sumoda 0, Isidro 0.
ARELLANO 82 -- Salado 26, Arana 13, Concepcion 10, Bayla 9, Gayosa 8, Sablan 7, Talampas 3, Espiritu 3, Oliva 2, Alcoriza 1, Sacramento 0.
Quarters: 22-18, 33-35, 57-56, 85-82.
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