MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) De La Salle-College of St. Benilde (CSB) weathered an inspired effort from Mapua University and survived a late injury to Justin Gutang to claim a 71-67 triumph in the NCAA Season 95 men's basketball tournament on Thursday.
Playing on the Cardinals' home court, the Blazers stayed composed after squandering an early lead and seeing the home team maintain a slim advantage for most of the contest.
Jimboy Pasturan came through with big buckets in the fourth quarter, as did Gutang before he suffered an apparent knee injury with just 3.2 seconds to play. The forward had to be helped off the floor, after contributing 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in just 22 foul-plagued minutes.
Pasturan, meanwhile, had 7 of his 11 points in the final frame.
The Blazers improved to 3-0, tying defending champion San Beda University at the top of the league standings. Mapua, for its part, dropped to 4-0 after failing to protect its home court.
CSB got off to a fast start, leading 8-0 early before Arvin Gamboa sparked Mapua's comeback. The Cardinals led by as much as 9 points, 30-21, late in the second frame off a three-pointer by veteran point guard JP Nieles.
But a buzzer-beating triple by Carlo Young to end the first half gave momentum back to CSB, and the Blazers steadily chipped away at the deficit in the third quarter. They trailed by just three points, 49-46, heading into the payoff period.
A jumper by Pasturan knotted the count at 51 with 8:16 to go in the game, before Noah Lugo gave Mapua its last lead, 53-51. A pair of charities by Prince Carlos tied the game once more, and Pasturan knocked down a booming triple to give CSB its first lead of the second half, 56-53, with 6:27 left.
The Blazers would not trail again. They pounced on Mapua's foul-prone ways to stay ahead, 66-60, with under a minute to go. They were still ahead, 69-62, after Gutang brushed off what appeared to be an ankle injury to complete an and-1 play.
Mapua refused to go down easily, however. Buoyed by their crowd, they trimmed the deficit to four points, 69-65, after a Laurenz Victoria lay-up and a split at the line by Adrian Nocum. Lugo then drew a foul on Unique Naboa while shooting a triple, in the same play that saw Gutang go down with a knee injury.
Unfortunately for Mapua, Lugo made only 2 of 3 charities. The Cardinals were then forced to foul Edward Nixon, who calmly sank two free throws to ice the game.
Gamboa finished with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, but fouled out with 2:46 left. Lugo was the only other Mapua player in double-digits, with 11 points.
Neither team shot well, with CSB converting 35.09% of their attempts and Mapua going 35.21% from their home floor. The Cardinals also made just half of their 26 free throws, while the Blazers went 25-of-37 from the line.
This is CSB's best start to a season since 2005.
CSB 71 - Gutang 12, Pasturan 11, Leutcheu 11, Young 9, Dixon 8, Belgica 8, Naboa 4, Flores 4, Carlos 2, Lepalam 2, Velasco 0, Sangco 0
MAPUA 67 - Gamboa 14, Lugo 11, Victoria 9, Nocum 7, Bonifacio 6, Bunag 6, Salenga 4, Gonzales 4, Nieles 3, Hernandez 3, Serrano 0, Garcia 0, Aguirre 0, Jabel 0
Quarter scores: 13-17, 27-32, 46-49, 71-67
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