The De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) Blazers secured a podium finish in the PinoyLiga Next Man cUP after edging out the University of the East (UE) Red Warriors on March 5, a day after their semi-finals loss against the Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU) Pirates on March 4 at the Activate Sports Center in Mandaluyong.
On Saturday, the Benilde Blazers battled it out against the Lyceum University of the Philippines (LPU) Pirates with a finals ticket on the line. It was a close matchup early in the first period, with both squads going on runs of their own. However, the Pirates, headed by Gyle Montano, Jeorolan Omandac, and tournament MVP candidate Genesis Avilles, put on a party from behind the arc. After nailing consecutive long bombs, the Pirates would rely on this to pull away from the Blazers. The early barrage by the Pirates would be the highlight of the game. Despite numerous attempts at a comeback by the Taft squad, the deficit was too large to overcome.
The Pirates won the ball game, 67-85, to advance to the finals, while the Benilde Blazers fell to a third-place battle against the University of the East (UE) Red Warriors.
The Blazers were determined to finish their PinoyLiga Next Man cUP campaign with a podium finish facing off against the UE Red Warriors on Mar. 5 at the same venue. The matchup was a close battle throughout. The ball game opened with an early four-to-nothing run by the Red Warriors. However, sophomore forward Michael Mara quickly put a point on the board for the Blazers after a tough finish in the paint and converting his charities, 3-4. Midway through the period, it was a back-and-forth between both squads. The Blazers added to their total after conversions from Carlos Sumabat and Jessie Arciaga. On the other hand, MJ Langit and Josiah Alcantara dropped the points for the Red Warriors—the first period ended with the Blazers up by seven, 24-17.
It was a similar story in the second canto. The period started with a layup by the Red Warriors from Gio Maxie, while Zenric Jarque answered with a long bomb, 27-19. The Red Warriors would continue to fight back after another make from Maxie, followed by a finish from Welo Lingolingo to cut the Blazers’ lead to three, 27-24. In a high-scoring period, the Blazers would edge out the Red Warriors to end the quarter, 42-35.
In the third quarter, the Red Warriors wanted to close the gap. Alcantara, Langit, and Lingolingo continued to shoulder the load for the Red Warriors, tying the ball game midway through the period, 46-46. The Blazers would gradually rely on their charities to take a slight advantage, although that wouldn’t be enough as the Red Warriors took the lead from the Blazers after a three-pointer from Marc Cabero, 47-51. The period would end with the Blazers down by nine, 56-65.
In the fourth quarter, the Blazers set their sights on a comeback. It was sophomores Joshua Cajucom and Sumabat that spearheaded the comeback for the Blazers. Sumabat started the Taft squad’s offense with a fast break hammer, while Cajucom followed with two fastbreak layups to cut the deficit to six, 63-69. The Blazers would cut the deficit to just two, 69-71, after free throw conversions from Macoy Marcos and a layup from Angelo Vanguardia. 40 minutes of play was not enough, as both teams were tied by the end of the period, 80-80.
In overtime, Alcantara took charge for the Red Warriors after converting a heavily contested three to give the Red Warriors the lead, 80-83. On the other hand, Marcos and Cajucom delivered crucial baskets for the Blazers, keeping them close to the Red Warriors. In the final minute, Sumabat brought the lead back to the Blazers after converting his free throws, although the Red Warriors reclaimed the lead with a steal and fastbreak made by Alcantara, 88-89.
With nine seconds remaining, the Blazers trusted the final shot to Cajucom. Despite missing a stepback jumper, Marcos grabbed a crucial rebound and made a buzzer-beating shot at winning the ball game for the Blazers, 90-89.
Four players scored double figures for the Blazers, namely Jarque, Cajucom, Sumabat, and Marcos, scoring 22, 17, 15, and 12 points, respectively.
The Benilde Blazers conclude their PinoyLiga Next Man cUP campaign in third place. Despite not finishing at the top, the Blazers garnered notable wins against the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles and UP Fighting Maroons and saw the breakouts of sophomores Cajucom, Mara, and Sumabat.