LETRAN survived a late Southwestern University scare to score a 78-68 victory, its first in the Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup at The Arena in San Juan on Friday.
Rookie Rey Nambatac continued to sparkle for the Knights, who came under siege after the Cebu-based squad rallied from an early 15-point deficit to tie the game at one point in the fourth quarter.
The Knights, now toting a 1-1 win-loss card, dealt the Cobras their fifth loss in six games.
Despite missing the services of veteran swingman Kevin Racal, who’s out the whole summer tournament due to a foot injury, the Knights found plenty of offensive options as they built a 15-point second-quarter lead.
But the Cobras, riding the momentum of their breakthrough win last week against Lyceum, fought back and were able to knot the count at 56 early in the fourth quarter.
The Knights, however, refused to fold and turned to the quartet of Nambatac, Mcjour Luib, Mark Cruz, and Raymond Almazan down the stretch to erect another comfortable margin.
“This tournament is for us to build our confidence heading into the NCAA so I’m trying out different players,” Knights coach Caloy Garcia said.
“Ang gusto ko kasi dito sa outlook ng team namin, anybody can be a threat. Yun ang target talaga namin. Even though they (SWU) caught up, I wasn’t calling timeouts because I want them to mature as quick as possible. I left the ball in their hands.”
Nambatac, the former NCAA juniors MVP, spearheaded the Knights with 16 points (6-of-7 free throws), four steals, and two assists, although he missed all his four three-point attempts.
“Alam naman natin na magaling talaga siya, but he still has to develop other aspects of his game, especially yung three-point shot kasi nandiyan na yung drive niya, magaling pumasa. Yung problema lang yung outside shooting,” Garcia said of Nambatac. “He has to be more consistent.”
Nambatac said: “Masaya ako kasi kahit papano, ginagamit ako ni coach. Malaki talaga yung tiwala niya sa akin.”
“Para sa akin naman, kailangan ko talaga mag-step up kasi si K-Rax may injury so kailangan ko munang pagsilbihan yung role niya,” added the homegrown Letran cager, a combo guard who closes recent games at small forward with the playmaker Cruz and Luib taking both guard spots.
Letran 78 – Nambatac 16, Luib 13, Cruz 11, Almazan 11, Tambeling 10, Publico 5, Belorio 5, Gabawan 4, Ruaya 3, Buenaflor 0, Pantin 0, Almario 0, Castro 0, Olotu 0
SWU 68 – Sanjo 17, Arong 16, Ortega 8, Otida 6, Bautista 6, Bergondo 4, Siewe 4, Holper 3, Mohammed 2, Panerio 2, Goloran 0
Quarterscores: 18-8, 39-26, 56-53, 78-68