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SSL quarterfinals: Lady Blazers stay alive vs Golden Tigresses

Games on Sunday
(Rizal Memorial Coliseum)
2 p.m. – *NU vs UE
5 p.m. – *AdU vs AU
*-twice to beat

MANILA, Philippines – NCAA champion College of St. Benilde turned back the University of Santo Tomas, 25-22, 23-25, 18-25, 25-23, 15-11, to force a rubber match in the Shakey’s Super League (SSL) Collegiate Pre-season Championship quarterfinals on Saturday at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Manila.

Handicapped by a twice-to-win disadvantage as the third seed, the Lady Blazers flaunted their championship pedigree by erasing a 1-2 deficit with a squeaker in the fourth set before slamming the door down on the Golden Tigresses in the clincher.

Wielyn Estoque hammered 18 points including the back-to-back daggers to finish what Gayle Pascual and Zamantha Nolasco, with 16 and 13 points, respectively, started in the thrilling come-from-behind win for the two-time reigning NCAA queens.

Game 2 is next Saturday at the same venue with the winner arranging a Final Four showdown against the winner between Far Eastern University and Ateneo, which were to play in the other quarterfinal pairing Saturday night.

“Lagi naman nating pipiliting manalo. Iba yung game natin noon na may pinanggalingan tayo or kung ano mang sitwasyon noon. This time, nakapag-rest tayo at nakapag-prepare,” said coach Jerry Yee. “We’re able to put up a fight kahit paano.”

Up against the second-ranked Santo Tomas, St. Benilde was on the verge of elimination with a 1-2 deficit after surrendering an 18-25 loss in the third set only to storm back and forge a final set behind the troika of Estoque, Pascual and Nolasco.

The Lady Blazers proved a different squad from there on as Pascual and Nolasco took turns both on the offensive and defensive ends to break away from a 5-all deadlock that set the stage for Estoque’s finisher.

Following an error from Xyza Gula, Nolasco unloaded two quick attacks to push St. Benilde to 8-5 before Pascual swatted Angeline Poyos’ thunderous attack then unleashed a searing hit of her own to make it a sudden 11-6 upperhand.

Estoque put on the finishing touches with two straight hits, highlighted by the soft drop that just sneaked by Santo Tomas defenders for the huge St. Benilde win.