By Jerome Lagunzad
Tired of being just a mere spectator in the playoff round, Michael Calisaan made sure he won’t let a golden opportunity slip away from his hands this time.
The veteran forward sizzled with a career-best 36 points as the Golden Stags staved off the Letran Knights in an intense finish yesterday, 74-69, to keep their NCAA seniors basketball title campaign alive at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The 6-foot-4 Calisaan drained 14 of his 22 attempts from the field, including five triples, none bigger than his last from the top of the key with 18.3 seconds to play that proved to be the dagger right into the Knights’ hearts.
“Talagang gustung-gusto ko manalo,” said Calisaan, who also added 10 rebounds in his finest performance yet so far in four years with the Golden Stags. “Ngayon lang ako nagkaroon ng pagkakataon na makapasok sa playoffs. Ganito pala kasarap ang feeling.”
Thanks to Calisaan’s game-long brilliance plus the timely buckets by guard Ryan Costelo down the stretch, San Sebastian clinched the fourth and final playoff spot while earning the right to face third-seeded Jose Rizal University in another knockout duel on Friday when the stepladder semifinal round gets going.
Letran, fresh from a thrilling 70-68 win over Arellano University last Friday, failed to advance to the playoffs for the second straight year under coach Jeff Napa after winning it all in 2015 at the expense of archrival and current titleholder San Beda.
The spitfire Costelo also come up big with 13 points, nine of them coming in the final frame, and issued a pair of assists, the last setting up Calisaan for the wide-open triple after attracting the defense of Letran big man Jeo Ambohot and Jeremiah Taladua atop the key.
SAN SEBASTIAN 74 – Calisaan 36, Costelo 13, Ilagan 6, Navarro 6, Valdez 4, David 3, Gayosa 3, Bulanadi 2, Baetiong 1, Calma 0, Capobres 0, Mercado 0.
LETRAN 69 – Taladua 16, Quinto 15, Calvo 11, Nambatac 11, Vacaro 8, Ambohot 3, Balanza 3, Balagasay 2, Mandreza 0, Gedaria 0.
Quarters: 18-16, 32-30, 53-54, 74-69.