The San Beda Red Lions missed their desperation attempts in the dying seconds, allowing the College of St. Benilde Blazers to escape with a 62-61 victory on Tuesday and claim a finals’ slot for the first time in 20 years in the 98th National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament.
The top-seeded Blazers went to their tight interior defense after Miguel Oczon connected with two charities that gave them a 62-59 lead in the final 12.7 seconds of their Final Four encounter with the fourth-seeded Red Lions.
San Beda tried to force an overtime off a tightly guarded James Kuwekuteye, but his misses kept the Mendiola-dribblers from forcing an overtime.
When Damie Cuntapay finally scored on a follow-up with 4/10ths of a second left, the Red Lions, were a point short of tying the game and the Blazers went on to make league history with their return to the finals after last making it in 2002.
St. Benilde will face defending champion Letran in the finals after the Knights held off the Lyceum Pirates, 67-58, in their Final Four clash, where Fran Yu tallied 11 points and King Carilipio added 10.
Louie Sangalang and Brent Paraiso shot nine points apiece for the three-peat-seeking Knights, who will meet the Blazers starting on December 4 in Game 1 of their title showdown at the Araneta Coliusem.
Oczon went on to finish with 17 points and six rebounds for the Blazers, who ended a 20-year wait to make it to the best-of-three championship round.
Back in 2002, the Blazers hurdled the Philippine Christian University Dolphins twice in the Final Four and engaged the San Sebastian College Stags in a best-of-three finals affair, which they eventually won.
“It’s a good feeling. I told the boys I’m happy to make the Final 4. But for me, my main goal is to make the finals. Now we achieved. Siyempre, now that you’re here, you want more. The players deserve all the credit. They poured their hearts out,” said Blazers’ coach Charles Tiu.
Kwekuteye, who had 11 points, first got screened by Mark Sangco on his first bid to put the match into an extra five minutes at the 6.6-second mark.
Sangco, who only scored four points and had eight rebounds and a block, was in front of Kwekuteye again with teammate Joshua Marcos with 4.8 seconds left.
It was a disappointing finish for Kwekuteye, whose trey with 15.7 seconds left allowed San Beda to come closer, 59-60, before Oczon delivered his freebies.
James Pasturan backed up Oczon with 16 points, while top MVP candidate Will Gozum added 10 points, to go with 11 rebounds.
CSB 62 — Oczon 17, Pasturan 16, Gozum 10, Nayve 8, Corteza 7, Sangco 4, Cullar 0, Carlos 0, Marcos 0, Lepalam 0, Lim 0.
SAN BEDA 61 — Cortez 13, Kwekuteye 11, Bahio 9, Sanchez 8, Ynot 6, Cuntapay 4, Andrada 3, Cometa 3, Alfaro 2, Visser 2, Payosing 0.
Quarters: 19-14, 34-31, 54-48, 62-61.