MANILA, Philippines - Jose Rizal fed on an explosive first half offensive and bucked repeated rallies by San Sebastian for an 82-74 victory that kept the Bombers Final Four hopes afloat in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City yesterday.
Byron Villarias unleashed a game-high 28 points he spiked with a season-high tying eight triples as the Bombers snared their 10th win against seven losses to move just half-a-game behind joint third running Perpetual Help Altas and Letran Knights (10-6).
Jose Rizal survived a second half explosion by Calvin Abueva, who struggled in the early going but finished strong and wound up with 26 points, 20 rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
But the Bombers, who nearly squandered a 20-point bulge at the turn, made the right plays at the right time on both ends down the stretch to preserve the victory while dealing Stags their fifth defeat againt 11 triumphs.
“I’m just happy the players showed character in the end,” said Jose Rizal coach Vergel Meneses.
JRU’s win likewise gave reigning champion San Beda the top seeding with a 14-2 card.
Earlier, Fil-Canadian James Forrester fired 24 points as Arellano U trounced an undermanned Lyceum side, 58-49, in a non-bearing game.
Forrester highlighted his scoring binge with five triples as the Chiefs took control in the second quarter and went on to dominate the Pirates to hike their record to 6-10.
Although out of the Final Four race, Arellano U coach Koy Banal still told his players to play their best.
“Whether it’s a championship game or just a practice match, I always tell players to give it all,” said Banal, who hopes to figure well in the semis race next year with an intact roster.
The Pirates, who have played without Chris Cayabyab, Vence Laude, Mark Francisco and Floricel Guevarra for the third straight game due to academic deficiencies, fell to 3-14.
In juniors’ play, San Sebastian fought off a furious challenge by Jose Rizal as it carved out a 79-70 victory to seize the solo lead and clinch the first twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four with a 15-1 record.
Arellano U routed Lyceum, 125-36, in another non-bearing contest to improve to 7-9.
Jose Rizal fell to 6-11 while Lyceum took its 16th straight loss.