B-day boy Balanza leads Letran win; San Beda sweeps 1st round
MANILA, Philippines – Letran Knights captain Jerrick Balanza made sure that his birthday would end in celebration heading to the weekend.
The now 23-year-old swingman erupted for 26 points in his team’s 88-64 drubbing of the St Benilde Blazers in the NCAA Season 95 at the Cuneta Astrodome on Friday, September 6.
Coincidentally, Balanza’s scoring burst came a day before his first year away from a life-threatening brain tumor diagnosis that sidelined him for the rest of Season 94.
Eager to snap Letran’s two-game losing skid, Balanza went off for 16 of his 26 markers in the first half alone to clinch a 46-35 lead by intermission.
Eventually, his teammates joined the pileup in the second half and got as far as 30 points ahead, 82-52, early in the 4th off a Jeo Ambohot triple. By then, there was nothing the hapless Blazers could do except make the losing margin a little bit lower to end the first round.
Head coach Bonnie Tan was rightfully satisfied with the way his wards blew out a fellow powerhouse.
“Mas masaya ako na nalabas namin yung laro namin na hinahanap ko na dati pa,” he said after the game. “We took our break positively. We want to rediscover our talents individually.”
(I’m more happy that we got the game I was looking for a long time now.)
Nine other Knights scored at least 5 points in the easy win, led by Bonbon Batiller’s 10 markers and 2 assists.
Meanwhile, Kendrix Belgica was the sole CSB player in double figures with 12 points and 7 rebounds. High-flying forward Justin Gutang was held to just 3 points on a 1-of-6 shooting in 15 minutes of action.
In contrast to the first game, the San Beda Red Lions had to dig deep to defeat the streaking Mapua Cardinals, 69-60, to sweep the Season 95 first round.
Calvin Oftana continued his breakout year with 24 points, 10 in the 4th quarter alone, plus 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks off the bench as San Beda rose to an immaculate 9-0 record.
Rising star James Canlas and veteran center Donald Tankoua chipped in 10 markers apiece.
After 3 grind-out quarters, the Red Lions only led as many as 4, 49-45. However, Canlas created ample separation with a triple to begin the 4th up 52-45.
It was all Oftana from there as he scored 6 straight points midway through the frame to keep the game away from the Cardinals, 57-49.
The fourth-year forward eventually shut the door on Mapua’s comeback hopes with one more pull-up trey to raise the lead to 9, 65-56, with 2:54 left in regulation.
Star rookie Paolo Hernandez led Mapua’s upset bid with 16 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Lead guard Noah Lugo added 13 markers and 6 boards as the Cardinals saw their three-game winning streak get snapped at the end of the round.
Finally, the San Sebastian Stags joined the 6-3 logjam for 2nd place with a thrilling 85-79 win over the Arellano Chiefs.
It’s now a four-way tie on the heels of unbeaten San Beda as San Sebastian tied Letran, Lyceum and CSB in the standings war.
Lanky forward Allyn Bulanadi spearheaded the Stags’ charge with 22 points, 14 coming in the first half alone, to go with 7 rebounds.
JM Calma followed up with a 17-marker, 10-board double-double as San Sebastian won its fourth straight game to end the round.
Despite going down by as many as 17 points in the second half, Arellano found the shooter’s touch as it crawled all the way back in the 4th thanks to back-to-back triples from Gelo Sablan and Jade Talampas.
Big man Justin Arana then drained two free throws to get within a point, 78-79, after getting slapped on the hand by Stags center Anmar Cosari.
However, that was as near as the Chiefs could get as they missed crucial go-ahead buckets from Kent Salado, Arana and Sablan. Bulanadi then sealed the deal with two charities, 83-79, off a duty foul with 15 ticks left on the clock.
Salado and Arana led Arellano in the losing effort with 13 points apiece. Dariel Bayla added 12 markers as the Chiefs finished the round with a 2-7 slate.
Letran 88 – Balanza 26, Batiller 10, Olivario 7, Muyang 7, Caralipio 6, Yu 6, Ular 6, Balagasay 6, Ambohot 5, Reyson 5, Mina 2, Sangalang 2, Javillonar 0, Guarino 0.
Benilde 64 – Belgica 12, Haruna 8, Naboa 7, Flores 7, Carlos 7, Nayve 6, Sangco 5, Lepalam 5, Gutang 3, Young 3, Leutcheu 1, Dixon 1, Velasco 0, Mosqueda 0.
Quarters: 25-15, 46-35, 73-49, 88-64.
San Beda 69 – Oftana 24, Canlas 10, Tankoua 10, Abuda 7, Bahio 5, Carino 4, Nelle 3, Doliguez 3, Soberano 3, Etrata 0, Alfaro 0, Noah 0.
Mapua 60 – Hernandez 16, Lugo 13, Gonzales 11, Bonifacio 7, Bunag 4, Gamboa 4, Victoria 2, Serrano 2, Salenga 1, Jabel 0.
Quarters: 16-16, 30-28, 49-45, 69-60.
San Sebastian 85 – Bulanadi 22, Calma 17, Ilagan 12, Desoyo 8, Capobres 6, Cosari 5, Villapando 4, Tero 3, Dela Cruz 2, Sumoda 2, Isidro 2, Calahat 2, Altamirano 0.
Arellano 79 – Salado 13, Arana 13, Bayla 12, Sablan 9, Oliva 9, Talampas 5, Gayosa 5, Sacramento 5, Concepcion 4, Espiritu 2, De Guzman 2, Alcoriza 0, Segura 0, Sunga 0.
Quarters: 24-20, 49-37, 64-54, 85-79.