RAYMOND Almazan tallied 19 points, 23 boards, and nine blocks, leading Letran to an 85-58 rout of San Sebastian on Thursday in the Final Four of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Knights star slotman, Rain or Shine’s third overall selection in the 2013 PBA rookie draft, was dominant all-game long as he flirted with a triple-double to spearhead the blowout victory for the Knights, who advanced to the Finals for the second straight year.
“He deserves to be in the PBA already,” Knights coach Caloy Garcia said of Almazan.
“Sayang lang hindi niya nakuha yung ten blocks, pero ang kagandahan sa kanya, he didn’t really care about it. All he cared about was to win the game,” Garcia added. “He just has to bring it to the next level in the Finals.”
The nine blocks was the most in the league in three years, since former San Beda import Sudan Daniel recorded 10 blocks for the Lions in a 92-61 elimination-round win over University of Perpetual Help on September 1, 2010.
Almazan played down his splendid showing as he gave credit to his teammates.
“Lahat naman kami may go-signal at binibigyan ng kumpiyansa,” said Almazan, who got ample support from Mark Cruz, Kevin Racal, and Rey Nambatac, who all scored in double figures.
Despite being armed with a twice-to-beat advantage, the Knights played like there was no tomorrow as they banked on a strong start and an even stronger finish to put up their most lopsided triumph thus far this season.
The Knights leaned on defense early, shackling impressive rookies Jamil Ortuoste and CJ Perez, who combined for a paltry 7-of-37 shooting from the field.
Letran’s offense then picked up in second half, where it broke the game wide open by outscoring SSC, 55-31.
The Knights await the winner of the other semifinal between defending champion San Beda and University of Perpetual Help.
Letran (85) – Cruz 19, Almazan 19, Racal 16, Nambatac 13, Tambeling 7, Olotu 3, Castro 2, Po 2, Ruaya 2, Luib 2, Belorio 0, Buenaflor 0, Gabawan 0, Publico 0.
San Sebastian (58) – Perez 11, Dela Cruz 10, De Vera 10, Ortuoste 10, Guinto 8, Aquino 4, Rebollos 3, Vergara 2, Balucanag 0, Gusi 0, Padilla 0, Trinidad 0, Balid 0, Tano 0, Magno 0.
Quarterscores: 17-10; 32-27; 57-44; 85-58.