AS he put the exclamation point to yet another Letran victory, Raymond Almazan gestured with his hands a championship belt on his midsection, signifying the Knights ultimate goal in this NCAA season.
The Letran big man once again stood out with his height and consistent play in leading his team to a 75-68 victory over San Sebastian in the Saturday’s game at The Arena in San Juan.
The 6-foot-7 Almazan, the league’s frontrunner in the MVP race, tallied 20 points, 15 rebounds, and three block shots, and capped his solid performance with a left-handed slam off a Kevin Racal pass as the Knights notched their 14th win in 17 games.
Letran also regained the solo lead in the standings with a half-game lead over San Beda and kept true to its word of never letting-up despite having already secured one of the top two spots and a twice-to-beat edge that comes with it in the Final Four.
“Kahit no-bearing na, gusto pa rin talaga namin manalo all the way,” Almazan said.
The match had more importance to the fourth-running Golden Stags, who slid to a 9-7 win-loss card overall.
Instead of solidifying their precarious position, the Stags kept the door open for fifth-running Emilio Aguinaldo College (8-8) for a shot at a semifinal berth.
Brad Guinto converted a three-point play to nudge the Stags to within 68-71 with 56 seconds left, but the Knights retaliated in the next possession behind Almazan’s dunk, before Mark Cruz buried two charities to ice the game.
Cruz, the Knights’ top playmaker, finished with 16 points, four boards, and three assists as he had the better of his matchup with Stags counterpart Jamil Ortuoste, who wound up with just nine points (4-of-11 shooting), two boards, and two assists.
“The difference today was the players were more relaxed, but we still have to find ways to improve,” said Letran coach Caloy Garcia, whose Knights rode the momentum of a 74-61 win over University of Perpetual Help the last time.
Letran (75) -- Almazan 20, Cruz 16, Racal 14, Ruaya 9, Belorio 6, Buenaflor 4, Tambeling 3, Nambatac 2, Gabawan 1, Castro 0, Po 0, Luib 0.
San Sebastian (68) -- Dela Cruz 21, Perez 16, Guinto 10, Ortuoste 9, Tano 6, Trinidad 4, Balucanag 2, Rebollos 0, Vergara 0, De Vera 0, Gusi 0, Aquino 0.
Quarterscores: 20-13; 31-30; 55-52; 75-68.