It was another down-the-wire finish -- another win for Letran and another loss for College of St. Benilde.
The front-running Knights came through in the endgame anew to remain unscathed following a 61-60 victory on Saturday night over the hard-luck Blazers in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Raymond Almazan missed his first double-double of the season by a point, but scored the most important basket – a putback off a missed jumper by Mark Cruz that gave the Knights the lead for good on their way to securing a fourth straight victory.
“What was nice is that we won another close game, but we also have to learn to play better,” Letran coach Caloy Garcia said as the Knights converted just 16 of 32 free-throw attempts for a mere 48 percent.
Ironically, it was free throws that caused the Blazers’ downfall despite shooting better from the foul line.
Luis Sinco, who missed two potential game-winning jumpers in their 73-72 overtime loss to Jose Rizal University just last Thursday, again failed to deliver for the Blazers as the starting point guard missed two-of-three charities with less than two seconds to go that could have won them the game.
Nearly back to tip-top shape after being sidelined with a knee injury the whole summer, Kevin Racal shone as well, scoring 18 points, on 6-of-8 shooting on top of eight rebounds, and three assists.
“Ginawa kong motivation yung two games ago na wala talaga ako na-contribute sa team kaya maganda yung kinalabasan sa game ngayon,” Racal said, referring to the Knights 79-74 win over Emilio Aguinaldo College two weeks ago when he missed all of his nine attempts and scored all his five points from the charity stripe in 29 minutes of play.
Mark Romero had the same scoring effort as Racal and converted on the layup off a cut that tied the game for the last time at 59-all with 37 seconds to go.
The Blazers thus remained the only winless team in the league with a 0-4 win-loss slate, with their games all having a combined losing margin of just five points.
Letran (61) -- Racal 18, Cruz 13, Almazan 9, Nambatac 7, Gabawan 4, Publico 4, Belorio 3, Ruaya 2, Dysam 1, Tambeling 0, Luib 0, Buenaflor 0.
St. Benilde (60) -- Romero 18, Taha 10, Bartolo 8, Grey 6, Argamino 5, Saavedra 5, Sinco 4, Ongteco 4, Carlos 0, Garcia 0, Deles 0.
Quarterscores: 17-13; 31-31; 46-41; 61-60.