Photo via inboundpass
After their first eight assignments, the College of Saint Benilde Blazers pretty much look like what they were last season with a 2-6 mark. It hasn’t been pretty, but there were good signs that CSB can take into the next phase.
Carlo Lastimosa. NCAA’s leading scorer and arguably the most exciting guard in the league. After so many years of digging deep for talent, CSB finally landed an ace, one who can light up the scoring for the usually offense-deficient Blazers. Uncle Jolas must be proud.
Recruits from winning HS programs. Aside from Lastimosa, CSB struck gold acquiring kids from championship-caliber programs like Luis Sinco (Ateneo), Ralph Nayve & Al Amin (San Beda), Anton Sevilla (DLSZ) and JR Ongteco (Letran). This only means that the coaching staff can count on these guys to rub off a winning attitude to a team that has yet to add up to their first and only title in 2000.
Sophomore step-up. Second-year guards Mark de Guzman and Jan Tan has been steady on most occasions for CSB. MDG is the “energy guy”, excellent in terms of hustle and, of course, the nakaw plays. Tan, on the other hand, is a big man with range. What he lacks in terms of rebounding and size (more on that later), he makes it up through his silky jumpshots.
Why the 2-6 record??
The Blazers looked good in their two victories: their opening win against Arellano U and yesterday’s beating of Perpetual Help. In those two games, Lastimosa — with help from de Guzman, Tan and Tim McCoy — outplayed their opponents from start to finish.
In between these two victories, however, holes were exposed:
Turnovers. Against teams such as JRU, Letran and San Beda, the Blazers flaked in the face of tough defensive pressure. Usually resulting to 8-second violations and easy fastbreak points for the opposing squad, CSB was not able to keep up.
The Letran game was the most heartbreaking of all three, as it was a very winnable contest, what with Knight Kevin Alas out with an injury. Instead, kuya Junjun Alas came through and torched the Blazers.
Speaking of keeping up… in exciting contests against JRU, Mapua and the defending champs San Sebastian, the Blazers faced slow starts that saw them fall behind early, and in the process, had to play catch-up the rest of the way.
At the end of each of these games, the Blazers rallied but fell short. They lost to JRU by 9, to SSC-R by 1 *WOAH* and then to the Cardinals by 2 in OT. Ouch.
Rebounds. CSB is the worst rebounding team in the league. Even bigman-deficient Perpetual beat them in that category. It’s a shame, but it was evident from game one that the Blazers’ bigs are more comfortable hoisting up J’s rather than doing the yeoman’s work inside.
Them “veterans”. Seriously lacking are the veteran leadership that’s supposedly provided by captain Robbie Manalac and MC Abolucion. Manalac had his moments, but he has been largely inconsistent and looked lethargic on the defensive end. While Abolucion has contributed some timely scoring these past few games, his propensity to turn the ball over (via his And 1-like dribbling) has become a setback.
I hate to call out both guys. Knowing them personally, these guys are great people overall. However, I can’t help but point all these out as they are expected to be of great help for this young Benilde squad. Fortunately, there’s still time for them to do this.
What’s looking up?
If there’s anything worth taking through the Blazers’ foray into the second round, it’s their heart. No one thought that this squad would be able to push top-4 teams like JRU and Mapua to the scariest limit. No one thought that Lastimosa and co. rallied and almost defeated San Sebastian. Heck, even the terms “rally” and “CSB Blazers” ain’t never been associated up until this year.
The second round is the perfect way for CSB to channel their inner “Mr. Clutch” and actually win ballgames. They should put into mind that the old days of back-to-back 20-point losses are over. Now that they’ve experienced coming up short in contests, it’s now time for them to actually get over the hump.
In short, the next round is definitely looking up for Benilde. With some hole-reparation, as well as some good ‘ole muni-muni, I’m sure CSB still has that upset-mindedness in them.