San Beda bucked a late James Kwekuteye injury and a furious rally from College of St. Benilde to squeeze out a 63-57 victory and take the third spot in the Final Four of the NCAA Season 97 on Sunday, May 1 at the FilOil Flying V Centre Arena in San Juan.

Photo from GMA NCAA

The Red Lions, sans their best player in Kwekuteye who sustained an ankle injury with still 1:31 left in the the game, weathered a huge storm put up by the Blazers behind Robi Nayve and Will Gozum to set up a semifinal date against the twice-to-beat Mapua Cardinals.

“We just take it one game at a time, we’re looking for Sunday and hopefully, James will be okay. I’m praying for that and sana wala namang major problems but it is what it is so tignan natin,” said San Beda head coach Boyet Fernandez.

Kwekuteye, who was the catalyst of a huge 14-3 San Beda run in the final frame, finished with game-high 17 points including the last layup that gave the Red Lions a 14-point cushion, 57-43.

The Blazers though battled-back with an 8-0 spurt before Kwekuteye went down with an ankle injury after a loose ball battle with St. Benilde forward AJ Benson.

The San Beda shooting guard had to be carried out of the floor and never returned to the game – something that CSB took advantage of to mount its comeback attempt inside the final 90 seconds of the game.

Winston Ynot had the chance to give San Beda some breathing room but he missed two free throws and an open corner triple. He secured the rebound but Benson forced a jump ball with the ball possession going into the Blazers way.

JB Bahio then completed a clutch defensive stance, stealing the ball away from Nayve’s hands before drawing a foul with 55 seconds left in the game.

He calmly sank the free throws to create a nine-point lead but CSB still pulled within five after back-to-back hits from Nayve and Will Gozum with 17 seconds left.

The Blazers played the fouling game in the final seconds but the Red Lions proved to be steady from the foul line to ice the game.

Yukien Andrada provided support with 11 points while Ynot added eight markers for the Red Lions.

Benilde’s top guns struggled against the San Beda defense with Nayve finishing with 10 points a measly 1-of-8 shooting from the field while Gozum was limited to just eight markers.

CSB will face the winner in the play-in match between Perpetual and Arellano.

The scores:

San Beda 63 — Kwekuteye 17, Andrada 11, Ynot 8, Bahio 6, Penuela 5, Cuntapay 4, Sanchez 4, Amsali 4, Alfaro 3, Cortez 1, Abuda 0, Gallego 0, Jopia 0.

CSB 57 — Nayve 10, Marcos 9, Gozum 8, Lepalam 8, Carlos 6, Benson 6, Cullar 3, Lim 3, Flores 3, Sangco 1, Publico 0, Davis 0.

Quarters: 18-7, 26-20, 40-37, 63-57

Source: Manila Bulletin (