Surpassing Emilio Aguinaldo College’s two-win total last year has been the immediate goal of Generals’ first-year coach Ariel Sison.
He got what he wanted on Thursday afternoon and he’s now eager to realize loftier goals—including a Final Four berth.
Flashing its superior form on both ends, EAC turned back free-falling St. Benilde 76-56 to close out its first-round campaign in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tourney on a high note at The Arena in San Juan City.
Smarting from a painful 53-70 loss dealt by Perpetual Help last Tuesday when they shot horribly from the field, the Generals fired on all cylinders against the Blazers while sustaining a stingy defensive stance to gain their third win in nine starts.
“It’s very sweet. At least we were able to surpass our win-total last year,” beamed Sison, a former EAC Brigadiers mentor who was promoted in lieu of former Generals coach Andy De Guzman.
Prized frontline duo of Sidney Onwubere and Cameroon import Hamadou Laminou combined for 30 points, 15 rebounds, six assists and seven blocks while guard Remy Morada had a double-double performance of 13 markers and 10 rebounds to help EAC deal St. Benilde its ninth straight loss.
The Blazers, in the process, became the first team to endure a winless showing in the first round since another St. Benilde squad suffered a 0-11 start in 2004.
Also making their presence felt in the Generals’ easy win were guards Raymund Pascua and starter Francis Munsayac, who combined for 19 points, spiked by five triples, two of them in back-to-back fashion that gave them a sizeable 72-47 lead over the Blazers with still four minutes to play.
“That’s what we worked on,” said Sison on their vastly-improved shooting performance that saw his wards make 26 of their 60 attempts from the field, good for more than 43 percent. “After out nightmare shooting (against the Altas), we worked on our shooting and I’m glad it paid off.”
Guard Carlo Young had a team-high 14 points, 10 of them coming in the first half, while big men Yankie Haruna and Christian Fajarito added at least 11 markers but they still could not prevent the Blazers from suffering yet another tough blow.
St. Benidle’s latest misery was dealt by EAC’s game-long commitment to play tough ‘D.’
“‘Yung defense and nakita kong malaking tulong. Pinilit namin ma-stop sina Young at Fajarito,” noted Sison. “‘At ‘yung mga players na naglalaro na masaya lang. Kahit na natatalo, andu’n pa rin sila.”
With a long respite ahead, Sison is hoping the Generals could utilize it to the hilt.
“Hopefully, the break will give us enough time to improve,” he said. “Hopefully, we can get back on the second round. Makabawi sana sa mga close calls nitong first round. Hindi ko muna iniisip ang makapag-Final Four. Basta kailangan manalo muna kami ng manalo.” – By Jerome Lagunzad
EAC (76) – Onwubere 16, Laminou 14, Morada 13, Pascua 10, Munsayac 9, Corilla 5, Aguas 4, King 3, Diego 2, Neri 0, Guzman 0, Estacio 0, General 0, Mendoza 0, Serrano 0.
CSB (56) – Young 14, Haruna 13, Fajarito 11, Belgica 4, San Juan 4, Domingo JJ 4, Castor 2, Dixon 2, Pasamante 2, Sta. Maria 0, Domingo JS 0, Pajarillaga 0.
Quarterscores: 16-15, 40-33, 53-43, 76-56.