MANILA – Santa Clarita International School-Iloilo battled back from 17 points down to beat Zamboanga del Sur National High School-Pagadian, 99-88, in the seeding round of the 2019 NBTC National Finals on Monday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Ralph Bajon top-scored with 33 points, two rebounds and three steals, while Franc Steven Tono and Jemar Cepriano added 19 and 17 markers, respectively, for the Iloilo representative.
With the victory, the Iloilo squad clinches the No. 26 seed in the competition and will battle the no. 4 ranked University of San Jose-Recoletos in the round-of-32 on Tuesday night.
Battling jet lag, the Ilonggos struggled in the opening quarter and went down by as much as 17 points but managed to trim the deficit to 42-46 at the half on inside conversions of Bajon.
Pagadian, however, managed to regain their form in the third quarter and build a double-digit lead. After another Iloilo run, Pagadian pulled away anew at 14 points in the fourth quarter.
But that proved to be Pagadian’s last stand as the Iloilo dominated the latter half of the fourth period behind Tono, Cepriano and Wilmer Dalumpines to turn things around and led by as much as 11 points.
“We have a slow start maybe because our players were battling jet lag but good thing we were able to make a run,” said Iloilo head coach Rodel Camacho. “We hope to have a better showing against USJ-R to possibly pull another win.”
Ken Pondoc finished with 22 points and nine rebounds for Pagadian, which will battle second seed and defending NBTC champion Nazareth School of National University in the round-of-32./PN