LETRAN leaned on the fourth quarter explosion of Mark Cruz to lift the Knights past the Lyceum Pirates, 74-57, to regain a piece of the top spot in Season 91 of the NCAA seniors basketball tournament Friday at The Arena in San Juan.
Cruz came through with 14 consecutive points in the team’s closing 20-3 run to give Letran a 60-53 cushion with 2:45 left in the game.
“I wasn’t surprised that Lyceum came close to us,” said winning coach Aldin Ayo after the Knights found themselves trailing, 49-50, early in the final period.
“’Di lang sila nagki-click but they’re always dangerous,” he added.
Cruz had a team-high 26 points, anchored on eight triples, grabbed five rebounds, dished out five assists, and had one steal for the Knights, who tied anew defending champion San Beda on top with similar 10-2 marks.
Fellow PBA-bound Kevin Racal added 19 points, while Jomari Sollano chipped in 10 for the Knights.
“My players are going to step up every time they zone us because we really practice on our shooting,” said Ayo. “I told the boys that every game in the second round will determine where we will end up.
“We don’t take for granted any team and we always make sure that we give our all every game,” he added.
Jean Nguidjol made 20 points while Wilson Baltazar contributed 14 for the Pirates, who fell to a 3-9 record.
Letran (74) - Cruz 26, Racal 19, Sollano 10, Nambatac 9, Luib 5, Balagasay 4, Balanza 1, Apreku 0, Calvo 0, Quinto 0.
Lyceum (57) - Nguidjol 20, Baltazar 14, Lugo 6, Lacastesantos 4, Alanes 4, Ayaay 4, Bulawan 3, Taladua 2, Soliman 0, Marata 0, Mbida 0
Quarterscores: 17-11; 28-25; 47-42; 74-57.