LETRAN banked on a third-quarter surge to overwhelm Arellano, 76-58, on Saturday and gain a chance for the second spot in the Final Four and the twice-to-beat edge in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
A 22-6 salvo in the third canto was all it took for the Knights to break away and roll to their sixth straight win and 12th overall against six losses.
The Knights also avenged their 67-77 first-round loss to the Chiefs.
Letran, now only a half-game behind San Sebastian in the standings, now hope for the Stags to lose to San Beda on Monday to forge a playoff for the second spot and the incentive that goes with it.
“We don’t care whatever happens sa Baste-Beda game,” Knights coach Louie Alas said. “Basta ang mindset namin is we have to beat them twice to reach the next level.”
Up by just two at the half, the Knights put the cuffs on the Chiefs in the third and outscored the Legarda-based squad by 16 points with Kevin Alas and Kevin Racal at the firing end.
Alas finished with another fine all-around performance of 24 points, including five threes, 10 assists, six rebounds, and two steals, while Racal chipped in 15 points, six boards, and three assists.
The elder Alas, though, wanted to emphasize that the presence of Raymond Almazan, the prized slotman who had gone into a mysterious two-month absence in the first round of eliminations, is the main reason why his wingmen are getting more open looks and fellow big men Jam Cortes and Jonathan Belorio’s job in the paint became easier.
“Big deal talaga ang pagdating ni Raymond,” Alas said of the 6-foot-7 beanpole, a member of last year’s mythical team. “Parang naubos mga problema namin.”
The Chiefs finished the season with a 6-12 mark.
CSJL (76) – K. Alas 24, Racal 15, Belorio 9, Cruz 7, Cortes 7, Almazan 6, Lituania 5, Olotu 3, Luib 0, Pantin 0.
AU (58) – Cadavis 18, Acidre 12, Hernandez 10, Pinto 6, Caperal 4, Zulueta 3, Forrester 2, Salcedo 2, Serjue 1, Lunas 0, Bangga 0, Palma 0.
Quarterscores: 18-18; 40-38; 62-44; 76-58.