Photo By Allyson Flores
Photo By Allyson Flores.

#PinoyLigaCup: Benilde Blazers crowned champions in Battle of Taft

The #BenildeBlazers staged an incredible comeback to take home the #PinoyLigaCup championship title in a sensational Battle of Taft against the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers.

By Aleea Fedillaga | Sunday, 24 March 2024

The De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) Benilde Blazers overcame a 19-point deficit to clinch the championship title in a thrilling victory against the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers at the finals match of the Pinoy Liga Next Man Cup: Season 2 on Mar. 23 at the Enderun College in Taguig City. 


To start the championship match, Justine Sanchez, Matthew Oli, and Ian Torres generated points for the team, complimenting Jhomel Ancheta’s excellent ball handling and timely assists. However, the Blazers struggled offensively despite having multiple scoring opportunities. On the other hand, the Green Archers easily drained a series of long bombs while capitalizing on the size of their big men, Bright Nwankwo and Henry Agunnane. While foul trouble plagued both teams, the Benilde Blazers could not contain the Green Archers’ offense trailing behind, 13-20. 


The second quarter began with the Benilde Blazers fighting harder. While the excellent shooting of the Green Archers carried over to the second period, they gave away multiple free throw attempts due to their careless fouls. JC Macalalag scored huge buckets for DLSU extending their lead to 19 points. However, Ancheta and Torres’ offense, combined with Anton Eusebio’s defensive efforts, cut the lead to 11 points to end the half, 38-49. 


The third quarter began with Tony Ynot driving hard to the basket igniting the Blazers’ offense. Torres, who scored consistently all throughout, was assisted by Ancheta and Allen Liwag to reduce the gap to five points. The Benilde Blazers fought aggressively on both ends of the floor to make an impressive comeback, but they were still down, 61-65, at the end of the third period. 


In the final 10 minutes, Eusebio nailed back-to-back shots and trimmed the deficit to just a point, sparking the Blazers’ momentum. Liwag hopped onto the momentum, converting a tough lay-up to give the Benilde Blazers their first lead of the game with 4:48 remaining. The Green Archers got the lead once again by capitalizing on the Blazers entering penalty, but Liwag came to the rescue with a floater and free throw to hand Benilde the one-point lead. The last minute of the game ultimately came down to crucial fouls and free throws as DLSU’s Jake Gaspay tied the game with a free throw shot. Torres’ lay-up and Ancheta’s free throw extended Benilde’s lead to three points. Despite a dangerous foul by Eusebio on Green Archer EJ Gollena at the three-point line with 3.56 seconds left, a missed free throw and the final rebound by Torres gave the Benilde Blazers the victory, 81-80. 


Torres was named into the Mythical 5 and was awarded Finals MVP because of his stellar performance in the finals game when the Blazers needed it most with a stat line of 18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals.  


In an exclusive interview with The Benildean, he discussed how the team remained motivated despite the large deficit, “Siyempre ang iniisip namin ay championship [ito] kaya kailangan namin ipakita ang best namin tsaka galing din kaming championship nung Asia Basket kaya siguro nakatulong ‘yung experience doon at buti naman na nakabawi kami.” Regarding his feelings about winning the Finals MVP, he shared,“Yung MVP, parang wala naman. Basta mag-champion kami, masaya na ako eh.”


In another exclusive interview, Head Coach Charles Tiu shared what this championship win means to him and the Benilde Blazers, ”It’s a good win. They had a lot of solid guys [like] Macalalag and Gollena who were big pieces of their team last year and Marasigan who has been outstanding, even their imports like Henry [Agunnane] have been really good.”


“I still consider that [game an] upset and it’s nice to win a championship. We don’t take anything for granted because we’re not exactly a school that’s won a lot recently so any championship in any tournament is a good thing for us,” he emphasized.


Tiu also delved into what the Benildean community can expect ahead of NCAA Season 100. “You’ll see a lot of new faces in our team so hopefully we can perform and bring back a championship to Benilde this year.”


Box Scores:

DLS-CSB (81): Ancheta 19, Torres 18, Liwag 11, Sanchez 9, Eusebio 7, Ynot 7, Oli 4, Cometa 2, Mara 2, Ondoa 2, Serrano 0, Vanguardia 0


DLSU (80): Agunnane 14, Gollena 11, Macalalag 10, Daja 9, Jucom 8, Gaspay 7, Marasigan 7, Ogana 7, Alian 3, Nwankwo 2, Rubico 2