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Monday, June 24, 2024

Blazers enter semifinals for 1st time in 20 years

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A 20-year wait ended on Tuesday for the College of St. Benilde Blazers in the 98th National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament at the FilOil-EcoOil Arena in San Juan.

Will Gozum knocked in 25 points and had 10 rebounds for the Blazers as they defeated the San Sebastian College-Recoletos Stags, 83-78, to claim a Final Four semifinal slot for the first time in 20 years.

“It was a good win for us. It was a great achievement. We reached our goal to make the Final Four,” said Blazers’ coach Charles Tiu, who hopes to bring CSB back to the finals after achieving the feat in 2002.

The mood at the dugout was happy after the Blazers completed the Final Four, where they joined the Letran Knights, the Lyceum Pirates and the San Beda Red Lions with their 10th win in 14 games.

The 6’7” Gozum fired 14 points in the second half as the Blazers went on to break free from a 40-all halftime deadlock, including nine in the third as they moved away, 63-57.

The Stags played the second half without their coach Egay Macaraya, who was ejected with 4.1 seconds to go in the second period, after arguing the with referee over a non-call, when Alex Desoyo was hit accidentally by Blazer Carlo Lim on the head while driving.

“Hopefully, we can add more wins, and continue to win,” added Tiu, after they bounced back from their 83-89 loss to the University of Perpetual Help Altas.

The Blazers weathered a late rally after they took an 83-76 edge in the last 1:17 off Migz Oczon’s trey.

But the Stags, led by Itchie Altamirano and Rommel Calahat with 11, scored only one of three attempts from the perimeter in the remaining time. They have a 6-9 card.

Last Sunday, Enoch Valdez made a career-high 30 points when he helped steer Lyceum of the Philippines University back to the Final Four with a 73-65 triumph over the Stags.

The Pirates climbed to 11-5 to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2019, while the Red Lions have a 10-5 slate in fourth.

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