LETRAN banked on another third-quarter uprising to turn back Jose Rizal University, 70-59, on Saturday night and claim solo third place in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Raymond Almazan once again underscored his importance for the Knights as the 6-foot-7 slotman sparked the surge with his timely blocks and putbacks in the third quarter, where his squad turned the tables and held the lead for good.
Since Almazan returned from a two-month absence, the Knights have won four straight and six of the last seven games.
“Malaking tulong talaga siya,”said Jam Cortes, who had been playing center full-time when Almazan was out. “Kahit medyo naaagawan ako ng minutes, masaya ako na nakabalik na siya.”
Almazan finished with eight points, eight rebounds, and three blocks before fouling out with four minutes to go in the game.
While he anchored the defense, Kevin Alas, Cortes, and Kevin Racal delivered on offense as the Knights improved to 10-6 overall.
Alas registered another all-around performance with 17 points, six boards, six assists, and six steals, while Cortes had a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Knights.
Racal, who was named Player of the Week after starring for the Knights in their last win against San Sebastian, had 14 points on a 6-of-11 shooting clip.
The Bombers fell to fifth place after suffering their seventh loss against nine wins.
The Knights trailed, 33-45, after a Byron Villarias triple with seven minutes and 52 seconds remaining in the third. But the Intramuros-based cagers used a 20-3 salvo bridging the last two quarters, capped by a Carlo Lituania trey early in the fourth, to suddenly give the squad a comfortable cushion that demoralized the Bombers.
“It was all about poise and patience,” Knights coach Louie Alas said. “Kung wala kami 'nun nung third quarter, wala kami dito ngayon.”
Letran (70) – Ke. Alas 17, Cortes 16, Racal 14, Belorio 9, Almazan 8, Lituania 6, Cruz 0, Luib 0, Kr. Alas 0, Gabriel 0
JRU (59) – Villarias 20, Lopez 14, Dela Paz 10, Mendoza 4, Maconocido 3, Mabulac 2, Salaveria 2, Monserat 2, Porter 1, Matute 1, Camasura 0, Carampil 0
Quarterscores: 16-20, 33-36, 53-48, 70-59