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Pirates turn back Stags, annex 15th straight win

Rey Nambatac of Letran tries to recover the ball in a scuffle with Irving Mendoza (5) and Raymund Pascua of Emilio Aguinaldo College. Behind him is teammate Christian Balagasay. KJ ROSALES

MANILA, Philippines — Lyceum of the Philippines University survived another scary finish as it warded off San Sebastian, 78-73, to stretch its unbeaten run to 15 in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan yesterday.

CJ Perez produced a career scoring effort, exploding with 28 points to power the Pirates past the stubborn Stags and help the team move three wins closer to sweeping its way to the finals. 

LPU takes on Letran on Oct. 6, collides with Jose Rizal U on Oct. 13 before tangling with defending champion San Beda on Oct. 19. 

An 18-game sweep will send the Pirates straight to the finals for a huge thrice-to-beat-edge.

It will also reduce the Final Four into a stepladder semis. 

“Three games to go,” said LPU coach Topex Robinson.

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The Stags, who pulled within one, 71-72, but collapsed at the finish, fell from joint third to fifth with a 7-7 mark.

Earlier, Jose Rizal U overpowered Perpetual Help, 85-52, and moved to solo third at 8-6.

MJ dela Virgen shot a season-high 18 points, including four triples, while Cameroonian Abdel Poutouochi and Jed Mendoza chipped in 16 and 12, respectively, as the Bombers snapped a two-game skid and stayed in the semis hunt.

Lyceum of the Philippines U (15-0) and San Beda (13-1) took the first two spots in the Final Four with twice-to-beat edges.

Dela Virgen hit two three-pointers to spark an early breakaway by the Kalentong-based squad, which seized a 17-5 lead at the end of the opening quarter.

Poutouochi then took over in the third quarter, scoring 10 points as the Bombers padded their lead to 64-39 before dela Virgen and Mendoza combined for 15 fourth quarter points to cap their romp.

Despite his wards’ impressive performance, JRU coach Vergel Meneses said they need to keep on improving.

“This is not the time to celebrate because there are still four games to go and anything can still happen,” said Meneses. “What we need to do right now is try to find ways to improve specifically on our defense.”

Nigerian Prince Eze had a 23-point, 20-rebound and three-block effort for the Altas, who fell to their ninth defeat against four wins and closer to Final Four elimination.

In the second game, Bong Quinto came through with a career 27-point game to lift Letran to an 84-78 victory over Emilio Aguinaldo College to remain in the semis race with an 8-7 card.

The Generals fell to 6-9.

 The scores:

First Game

Jose Rizal 85 – dela Virgen 18, Poutouochi 16, Mendoza 12, Grospe 8, David 8, Teodoro 8, Lasquety 6, Adul Razak 5, Bordon 2, Mariano 2, Mate 0, Pontejos 0, Sibangan 0, Sawat 0

Perpetual Help 52 – Eze 23, Pido 8, Sadiwa 8, Tamayo 3, Mangalino 3, Hao 3, Coronel 2, Ylagan 2, Dagangon 0, Casas 0, Clemente 0, Singontiko 0, Yuhico 0, Lucente 0

Quarterscores: 17-5; 39-15; 64-39; 85-52

Second Game

Letran 84 – Quinto 27, Nambatac 19, Calvo 16, Balanza 8, Gedaria 5, Vacaro 4, Balagasay 2, Taladua 2, Mendreza 1, Bernabe 0

EAC 78 – Onwubere 25, Munsayac 15, Bautista 10, Diego 10, Bugarin 6, Garcia 6, Mendoza, I. 2, Mendoza, J. 2, Tampoc 2, Corilla 0, Neri 0, Pascua 0

Quarterscores: 23-15; 50-34; 72-58; 84-78

Third Game

Lyceum 78 – Perez 28, Ayaay 11, Marcelino JC 11, Nzeusseu 11, Pretta 6, Marcelino JV 5, Ibanez 3, Srrano 2, Caduyac 1, Cinco 0, Baltazar 0, Tansingco 0

San Sebastian 73 – Bulanadi 19, Calisaan 13, David 9, Navarro 9, Ilagan 9, Costelo 6, Baetiong 4, Baytan 3, Mercado 1, Calma 0, Are 0, Valdez 0

Quarterscores: 18-7, 33-27, 52-49, 78-73

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