Nat Cosejo shows way as EAC frustrates St. Benilde to notch first win in 10 games

Facing the giants in the College of St. Benilde Blazers, Emilio Aguinaldo College lived up to its moniker and showed steely nerves and high valor as the Generals that they are known for.

Nat Cosejo of the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals (NCAA/GMA)

After 10 games, EAC finally barged into the win column and hacked out a hard-earned 80-75 win to frustrate league-leader CSB in the NCAA Season 98 men's basketball tournament Sunday, Oct. 16, at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan City.

Sunday saw a day of upset wins even as the Mapua Cardinals earlier stunned second-seeded Lyceum Pirates, 62-59.

And the Generals are not about to blow away the chance and proved their worth as they took home the victory to get a 1-9 record.

It was a nip-and-tuck affair from the get-go as EAC showed resistance despite several adversities that the team is facing, having been the league's cellar-dweller the entirety of the first round as well the recent full-time suspension of guards Ralph Robin and King Gurtiza.

St. Benilde only led by as many as eight points and it all boiled down to the last five minutes of the payoff period as the likes of JP Maguliano, Nat Cosejo, Ralph Bajon, and Adrian Balowa took charge for EAC.

Hard work paid off for the more determined Cosejo, who was recently hailed as the Most Valuable Player in the GMA-NCAA All-Star Game, as he led all scorers with 24 points on an 11-of-17 shooting and nine rebounds.

Bajon scored 16 points along with three rebounds and two steals while Balowa and Allen Liwag had 10 points apiece with six and three rebounds, respectively.

After a 70-all deadlock in the last three minutes, Robi Nayve tried to stop the bleeding for the Blazers after hitting a three-pointer off an isolation play to make it within three, 73-70.

But the Generals, behind the efforts of Cosejo, Bajon, and Balowa, unloaded a mini 6-0 run to counter whatever was left in the tank for the Blazers with 1:27 left.

Will Gozum, in the ensuing play, found Mark Sangco cutting inside the paint as the latter converted a basket en route to a 76-75 deficit.

But that shot proved to be the last significant shot for the top squad as Cosejo pulled off a clutch one-hander floater with 48.7 seconds remaining to heave a sigh of relief on behalf of the gritty Generals.

Migs Oczon had the chance for the equalizer but he missed a crucial three-pointer over the outstretched arms of Art Cosa in the next possession.

Balowa, on the other end, tried to put the finishing touches for EAC but Nayve and Oczon joined forces on the defensive end and stopped his attack for the retake.

Chaos, however, ensued in the last 17.5 seconds when Nayve committed a turnover after driving straight to the lane against the defense of Cosejo and Cosa but the All-Star MVP likewise turned the ball over in the following inbound play when he was supposed to pass the ball out to Maguliano.

With CSB still trailing by three, Oczon once again took his shot from beyond the arc off a Mark Sangco screen but it went too strong as Maguliano, who chalked up six points on top of 10 rebounds, iced the game with a pair of free throws with 8.1 seconds left.

Gozum, for his part, spearheaded the Blazers, who sustained a 7-2 record, with 19 points and nine rebounds, Nayve finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, and James Pasturan had 11 points and six rebounds.

The Scores:

EAC 80 -- Cosejo 24, Bajon 16, Balowa 10, Liwag 10, Maguliano 6, Cosa 5, Dominguez 5, Ad. Doria 4, Quinal 0, Luciano 0, An. Doria 0, Tolentino 0.

CSB 75 -- Gozum 19, Nayve 13, Pasturan 11, Corteza 8, Oczon 6, Sangco 6, Lim 6, Cullar 2, Carlos 2, Marcos 2, Flores 0, Mara 0, Lepalam 0, Davis 0.

Quarters: 19-18, 39-40, 57-59, 80-75.