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Long wait over for Benilde

On last day of elims after going 0-17, Blazers finally notch a win.

It was a victory that felt like a championship.

College of St. Benilde saved its best game for last as the Blazers avoided a record of futility by notching their first victory at the end of the NCAA men’s basketball eliminations at The Arena in San Juan City.

The Blazers turned back the Lyceum Pirates, 65-61, behind the efforts of Clement Leutcheu in the payoff period to finally snap their heartbreaking 17-game losing spell.

The 6-foot-7 Cameroonian drained eight straight points to spark a 15-0 blast with 3:10 left in the game to grab the 57-55 upperhand en route to the rousing triumph.

St. Benilde players celebrated inside the court as soon as the final buzzer sounded, giving each other pats on the backs and hugs for a job well done.

Even members of the coaching staff and supporters sitting near the bench turned emotional for their hardworking stalwarts, who refused to give up despite one defeat after another.

“We’ve been waiting for this day to come,” said St. Benilde coach Gabby Velasco, who is in his third year with the squad. “But the effort of the boys was really there throughout the season.”

“Meron kaming mga pagkukulang, there were moments when the boys felt like giving up, but this is part of growing up.

My team is very young, but they always come into the game with their best effort and this time, it paid off. I’m proud of them,” added Velasco.

A winless season for St. Benilde could have matched Philippine Christian University’s 0-12 performance in 1996, but Velasco and his boys fought hard against Lyceum through four lead changes and two deadlocks.

Still, it was St. Benilde’s worst season since joining the league in 1998. Its previous worst performance was in 2004 where the Blazers finished 2-12.

Meanwhile, Mapua held University of Perpetual Help to two free throws in the fourth quarter as the Cardinals downed the Altas, 67-63, to clinch the No. 3 seeding in the semis.

Down, 61-50, after three periods, the Cardinals regained their deadly form with Joseph Eriobu, Allwell Oraeme and Shane Menina doing the damage for their 12th win against six losses.

The trio conspired in a 16-1 run going to the last 1:15 of the game to gain a 65-62 advantage.

The Altas managed only two points in that quarter courtesy of two split charities from Prince Eze.