[Photo by Aldrich Lim]
“yeah man..Blazers can pull it off given they jst stay composed all throughout.. i really believe in the talent and skill!”
My buddy Carlo Cruz sent me this reply via twitter hours before the CSB Blazers’ showdown against Arellano U Chiefs earlier. I couldn’t agree more.
No doubt, the Blazers have the talent and skill. What seperates them from the top teams in the NCAA, however, is their lack of composure, especially down the stretch. It almost cost them a game against the Perpetual Altas, and it finally did some damage last Monday, losing to the EAC Generals.
Down by 12 points to the Chiefs at the start of the game, the Blazers seem to have things fall apart once again. But one Jeffrey Morial, celebrating his 23rd birthday, had other plans in mind.
The co-captain led the green-and-black army as they closed in on Arellano’s big lead with aggressiveness and tenacity on both ends. While Andrian Celada and Gio Ciriacruz kept CSB at bay, the Blazers provided the ‘little things’ that enabled them to take over the game.
After three (yes, three) grueling overtime periods, CSB came out victorious, led by the birthday boy’s 31-point, 10-rebound performance. Unlike last Monday’s game, though, he had offensive back-up: Illie Johnston had 21 markers, Mac Abolucion and Ian dela Paz 11 each and Jelo Montecastro, chipping in 10 points despite playing with a bruised thigh. It should also be noted that every Blazer (all 11 of them) scored at least a point, putting in work minus key players Jan Tan, Chuck Dalanon and Robbie Manalac.
The theme for this big win, despite the massive point production, was CSB’s game-long composure. With Ciriacruz playing the game of his life (29 points in three quarters) and Celada hitting bombs from all corners of San Juan, the Chiefs had every opportunity to blow the game wide open. But the Blazers responded to each AU run with aggressiveness, leading to fouls being committed by the opposing team. Not only did they force Ciriacruz to play limited minutes in the second half due to foul trouble, the Blazers also benefited from the line, hitting 43 out of a jaw-dropping 63 free throw attempts. As said by Coach Richard del Rosario, ‘yong maliliit na bagay, small stops na ‘pag pinagsama-sama, lumalaki”. Benilde did made the crucial stops. The big shots followed suit afterwards.
Towards the end, about six players from Arellano, Ciriacruz included, have already fouled out of the game. The remaining Chiefs on the floor were visibly tired as Morial iced the game for the Blazers with a step-back triple that broke the hearts of the Arellano faithful present in the venue.
Coach Richard and the Blazers must have felt a big sigh of relief to go with jubilation as they finally won a very convincing game over a dangerous Arellano squad. The countless hours of practice, as well as the many frustrations felt by all, has finally translated into a splendid on-court performance.
Knowing this team, though, they will definitely put this game aside immediately after this game. Next week, a different team, not to mention an even more dangerous squad, awaits the Blazers. They will be up against JRU Heavy Bombers, a team composed of lethal gunners and hustle dogs.
Again, the Blazers should rely, not only on their go-to guy, but also in the team’s composure. Sustain their composure all thoughout, and the have a really good chance against the tournament favorites. Revert back to their old ways, expect this team to fold early on. As a witness of the progress of this Blazers, however, I know for sure these young men will fight it out come Friday.
CSB 117 – Morial 31, Johnston 21, de la Paz 11, Abolucion 11, Montecastro 10, Manlapaz 8, Wong 7, Urra 7, Umlas 5, de Guzman 5, Argamino 1.
Arellano 107 – G. Ciriacruz 29, Celada 29, I. Ciriacruz 13, Reducto 10, Apostol 8, Anquilo 5, Agustin 5, Dimla 3, Rivera 2, Miranda 2, Virtudazo 1, Tayongtong 0, Catapang 0.