Mark Cruz's late game explosion steers Letran past Jose Rizal in OT
Mark Cruz scored 10 of his career-high 26 points in overtime as the Knights rallied past the Heavy Bombers. Dante Peralta

MARK Cruz scored all but four of Letran’s points in overtime period as the Knights pulled off an 84-77 win over Jose Rizal University Bombers in the NCAA men's basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan on Friday.

The pint sized Cruz unloaded 10 of his career-high 26 points in extra play, including back-to-back three pointers that put the Knights in front for good, 78-70, with 3:19 left in the game.

The Bombers retaliated with five straight points to come within 75-78 as the Knights went scoreless in a three-minute stretch, before Cruz ended the dry spell by making four straight free throws to seal the deal for the Knights, 82-75, in the final 24 seconds.

“Noong papatapos na kasi 'yung fourth quarter may play si coach Caloy (Garcia) na binigay sa akin na hindi ko nagawa, nag-result sa turn over at napunta ang bola sa JRU," said Cruz, one of the smallest player in the league at 5-foot-6.

"Kaya ang sabi ko sa sarili ko babawi ako sa over time," he added.

Down by two in regulation, 68-70, the Knights went to Jamil Gabawan who scored on a quick wide open undergoal stab off an inbound pass from Kevin Racal to force overtime.

"Everybody was expecting that the ball would be in the hands of Mark or Rey (Nambatac). Kagandahan doon tumakbo palabas 'yung dalawa, sumabay naman lahat (ng players ng JRU) kaya naiwang libre si Jamil," said Letran coach Caloy Garcia of the play.

Rey Nambatac added 21 points, while John Tambeling chipped in 12 for the Knights, who improved to a 4-6 record for seventh place.

Philip Paniamogan's 26 points, including five from beyond the arc, went down the drain as the Bombers' four-game winning run came to a halt.

Abdul Razak Abdul Wahab and Michael Mabulac contributed 13 and 10 markers each for JRU, which to a 6-4 mark.

The scores:

Letran (84) -- Cruz 26, Nambatac 21, Tambeling 12, Quinto 8, Racal 7, Gabawan 5, Saldua 3, Ruaya 2, Luib 0, Dela Pena 0, Singontiko 0, Publico 0.

JRU (77) -- Paniamogan 26, Abdul Wahab 13, Mabulac 10, Lasquety 8, Sanchez 6, Teodoro 5, Asuncion 4, Grospe 3, Benavides 2, Balagtas 0.

Quarterscores: 9-14; 34-33; 58-57; 70-70 (reg); 84-77.

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