The De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) Blazers brought home third place honors in NCAA Season 99 after defeating the Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU) Pirates, 93-83, on Dec. 10 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
To start the first ever battle-for-third of the NCAA, the Blazers struggled to keep up with the fast start by the Pirates, going down as much as 7-16. Mclaude Guadaña started hot with an early five points to his name. However, after Macoy Marcos, Joshua Cajucom, and Mark Sangco chipped in two-pointers of their own, the Blazers went on a run to inch them closer to the Pirates. Eventually, the Blazers got the lead after a Jesse Arciaga layup. After LPU regained their leverage, Cajucom caught fire and snatched back the lead to end the quarter, 24-22.
The second quarter was a barter of baskets by both teams as neither squads pulled away. Even though a Julian Culanay three teased a Pirates rally for a seven-point lead, Cajucom and Felipe Marasigan kept the Blazers within their area of responsibility, as they head to halftime with a two-point lead, 43-41.
The third quarter was all about the graduating Blazers as Miguel Corteza and team captain Robi Nayve planted their exclamation marks in their last NCAA game. While Corteza was asserting his mastery inside the paint with his floaters and strong layups, Nayve was making it rain from all areas of the court as he splashed threes after threes, taking advantage of the Pirates’ sloppy defense. The quarter saw the Blazers with their biggest lead of 15. A Sangco putback helped the Blazers with a 71-58 lead heading to the final period.
The final 12 minutes of action for both teams started with the Taft squad continuing to nurse their huge lead. John Morales, Marasigan, and Season 98 MVP Will Gozum netted jumpers to keep the lead at double digits. Even though a minor comeback scare was sewn by the Pirates late in the period, a Ladis Lepalam one-legged fadeaway put everything to sleep as the Blazers won the bronze match 93-83.
Cajucom had the best game of his college career, as he was extraordinarily aggressive and determined to look for his shots, resulting in a 15-point and one-assist outing. Nayve led all scorers with 18 thanks to his third quarter outburst. Miguel Oczon was in attendance in the arena but wore civilian clothes due to him playing in South Korea professionally soon.
In an exclusive post-game interview with The Benildean, Benilde Coach Charles Tiu stressed that he always has a win-now mentality no matter the situation, considering the overhaul of prized recruits involved. “I’m an impatient person, I may not know how [things] will unfold yet, but I do hope we win,” he said as he looks forward to the next chapter of the Blazers.
When also asked if he will be present for the next Asiabasket tournament in Cebu in February 2024, he replied that he is uncertain about being there. However, he stated he has a tournament in January where he wants to bring some Blazers with him to Dubai. “We do need to find some pre-season tournaments, as we need a lot of games also.”
DLS-CSB (93) - Nayve 18, Cajucom 15, Corteza 14, Marasigan 8, Carlos 7, Gozum 7, Sangco 6, Marcos 5, Morales 4, Lepalam 4, Arciaga 2, Jarque 2, Turco 1, Jalalon 0, Mara 0
LPU (83) - Guadaña 16, Penafiel 15, Montano 9, Umali 8, Barba 8, Cunanan 7, Culanay 6, Versoza 5, Aviles 4, Moralejo 3, Saure 2, Villegas 0