HE was a revelation last year. Now, he’s earning a reputation as a closer.
Jamil Ortuoste hit the go-ahead triple to lift San Sebastian to a pulsating 85-83 victory over Letran, jumpstarting its campaign in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The sophomore guard had four treys, but none was bigger than the one with 19.4 seconds left when he caught a CJ Perez pass then buried the shot from the left wing, sending the San Sebastian gallery into delirium and proving to be the difference in the see-saw affair.
“Ang nasa mindset ko lang talaga na manalo kami,” a relieved Ortuoste said. “Hindi ko rin in-expect na papasok yung tirang ‘yun. Siguro blessing lang yun ni God hindi lang para sa akin kundi sa buong team.”
Ortuoste finished with 16 points, four assists, and two steals to offset his five turnovers and lead the Stags, who had to fight back from 10 points down entering the fourth period.
Rookie forward Rhanzelle Yong preserved the victory with a steal off Mark Cruz in the Knights’ last offensive possession.
The Stags thus gained a share of the early lead with the day’s earlier winner in defending champion San Beda, while dealing the Knights their first loss in the post-Raymond Almazan era.
“First impressions last,” said Stags assistant coach Rodney Santos, who spoke in lieu of head coach Topex Robinson, who had to rush to the Smart-Araneta Colisieum for Alaska’s semifinal rubber match against Rain or Shine in the PBA. Robinson is an assistant coach with the Aces.
The loss put to waste the efforts of Knights do-it-all forward Kevin Racal, who flirted with a triple-double with 20 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists, including one dish to Ford Ruaya, who scored on a reverse layup that gave Letran its last taste of the lead at 83-82.
The Knights, who had six players score at least eight points, seemed poised to come out with the win as they headed into the final frame with a 10-point cushion, but were caught in a thrilling endgame with the Stags.
San Sebastian (85) – Perez 20, Ortouste 16, Dela Cruz 15, Yong 9, Fabian 7, Guinto 7, Calisaan 6, Aquino 3, Balucanag 2, Camasura 0, Pretta 0, Costelo 0.
Letran (83) – Racal 20, Ruaya 13, Cruz 13, Quinto 12, Nambatac 11, Gabawn 8, Calvo 3, Tambeling 3, Castro 0, Saldua 0, Apreku 0, Singontiko 0, Publico 0.
Quarterscores: 23-25; 38-41; 60-70; 85-83.