By REYNALD MAGALLON
James Kwekuteye nailed the go-ahead triple as San Beda beat a gritty College of St. Benilde side, 67-63, and stayed in hunt for one of the top two seeds in the NCAA Season 97 Tuesday at the La Salle Green Hills Gym in Mandaluyong.
With the game tied at 63-all, Kwekuteye rose to the occasion, coming through with a booming trey off a Ralph Penuela kick out with 52 seconds left to repel CSB’s uprising and pick up their seventh win in eight games.
San Beda then held on to its defense in the ensuing plays, distracting two three-point attempts from Prince Carlos and AJ Benson.
Robi Nayve still had the chance to tie the game after he was clipped by JB Bahio while taking a trey but botched the pressured-pack free throws as San Beda came away with the victory.
With the win, San Beda still has a clear shot at taking the top seed in its final game against Letran but can still slide to the third spot if they dropped it and Mapua scores a victory against Lyceum today.
CSB, meanwhile, finished the eliminations with a 5-4 record securing the fourth seed.
“Benilde did a good job today, they came back from 12 or 16 points down, credit to Coach Charles and his staff as well as the players. They didn’t want to give up and they came back and I’m just happy we made that shot with James. We’ll take that shot anytime,” said San Beda head coach Boyet Fernandez.
The Red Lions flaunted their depth anew as seven players scored at least six points with Kwekuteye completing a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds. Jacob Cortez, son of PBA player Mike Cortez, also provided the spark off the bench with seven points in his NCAA debut.
Nayve paced the Blazers with 14 points while Ladis Lepalam scored six of his 12 points in the final two minutes to anchor their comeback attempt.
Down by 12, Lepalam scored back-to-back baskets in the post before Benson nailed a triple that cut the lead down to just five, 63-58.
Carlos then dropped another long bomb before the Blazers forced a 24-second violation which Lepalam converted into two points to tie the game.
Benilde had the opportunity to take the lead after Kwekuteye was called for an offensive foul but came up dry on their offensive execution setting up the table for Kwekuteye’s clutch triple
SAN BEDA 67 — Kwekuteye 13, Cortez 7, Bahio 6, Penuela 6, Jopia 6, Ynot 6, Cuntapay 6, Cometa 5, Andrada 5, Abuda 4, Gallego 2, Alfaro 1, Amsali 0, Visser 0.
ST. BENILDE 63 — Nayve 14, Lepalam 12, Cullar 10, Gozum 10, Carlos 9, Benson 6, Publico 2, Lim 0, Flores 0, Marcos 0, Sangco 0, Corteza 0, Tateishi 0.
Quarters: 16-13, 37-27, 57-44, 67-63.