MANILA, Philippines - Carlo Lastimosa took charge in the fourth quarter and St. Benilde toughened up on defense to repulse Lyceum, 70-61, and gain a share of the early lead in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan last night.
Lastimosa, nephew of former PBA star Jojo Lastimosa, scattered 10 of his 14 points in the last 10 minutes of the contest as the Blazers fought back from a four-point deficit at the end of the third to join the Letran Knights, the Jose Rizal Bombers and the defending champion San Beda Red Lions in the early lead.
Trailing 49-53 at the onset of the fourth, St. Benilde clamped down on defense to force Lyceum to a series of turnovers and forced shots to seize control. The Blazers held the Pirates to just eight points while scoring 21 points to clinch the victory.
“He (Lastimosa) took charge when we needed it but I think it was more of our defense in the fourth quarter that helped us through,” said St. Benilde coach Richard del Rosario.
The Pirates had appeared on their way to snatching the win with a big run late in the third quarter but failed to sustain their charge in the face of the Blazers’ hard-nosed defense in the fourth.
Lastimosa unleashed eight points early in the period, including six straight points in a 16-4 blitz that shoved the Blazers to a 65-57 lead that they held till the end.
“Coach told me to be aggressive in the fourth because I was passing the ball more early so I took over,” said the 21-year-old Lastimosa.
Del Rosario, however, stressed the need for his wards to polish their free throw shooting.
“I’m disappointed with the way we hit our free throws. I guess we need to practice shooting more,” said Del Rosario, whose charges muffed nine of the 21 charities, including four from Lastimosa.
In junior play, last year’s runner-up St. Benilde-La Salle Greenhills overwhelmed Lyceum behind its second stringers, rolling to a 122-41 victory while Arellano U routed Emilio Aguinaldo, 104-49.
In the nightcap, Emilio Aguinaldo went to the free throw line down the stretch to turn back Arellano U, 75-72, and force a five-way tie for the lead.
Russell Yaya canned in four of his team’s six foul shots in the clutch while Cameroonian Noube Happi knocked the other two to seal the win for the Generals. Yaya finished with 17 points while Happi wound up with 14 markers and a game-high 16 rebounds.
It was another sorry loss for the Chiefs a day after dropping a heartbreaker to an undermanned San Beda Lions to slide to the bottom with a 0-2 (win-loss) slate. - By Joey Villar