By Peter Atencio
Top MVP candidate Will Gozum will lead the College of St. Benilde Blazers’ campaign in their quest for a first finals’ appearance in two decades in the 98th National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament.
The fate of the Blazers will rest on Gozum’s leadership on the floor, along with that of forward Miguel Corteza, when the top-seeded CSB side battles the San Beda Red Lions at 12 noon Tuesday at the start of the Final Four semifinals at the FilOil-EcoOil Arena.
The 6’6” Gozum, who leads the league in scoring with his 17.17 points per game, will be the heart and soul of the Blazers’ bid.
Benilde last made it to the best-of-three finals’ series after hurdling Philippine Christian University twice, back in 2002.
Gozum will get support from Corteza, a Mythical Five contender, with his scoring norm of 13.39.
The 6’3” Corteza is still recovering from a sprained right ankle, though, a situation he sustained in their last game against San Beda.
Coach Charles Tiu admits that the team still lacks maturity at this level and they have to learn how to hold their ground against the Red Lions, who are in the Final Four for a second straight season.
“’Pag di kayo sanay to play in front of a big crowd, nakaka-pressure pa rin. But they found a way to settle down, find their game and start it defensively,” said Tiu.
The Red Lions’ bid to reach the finals, rests on the big games of James Kwekuteye, who norms 15.61 points.
Blazers’ guard Robi Nayve, on the other hand, is considered as the season’s best free-throw shooter with his 87.5-percent clip
Behind him is Red Lions’ cager Bahio with 10.0 rebounds,
In the 3 p.m. game, the defending champion Letran Knights meet the third seed Lyceum Pirates, needing to win just once to make a return trip to the finals for a third straight season
Knights’ coach Bonnie Tan said members have rested well over the past week, after bowing to the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers, 71-81, in their final elimination round game of the season.
“Our experience is our advantage against Lyceum. As for the Pirates, this team had more rest than us,” said Knights’ coach Bonnie Tan.