LETRAN delivered when it mattered anew to score a 79-74 triumph over Emilio Aguinaldo College and grab the solo lead in the NCAA men’s basketball competition at The Arena in San Juan on Saturday.
Mark Cruz, Rey Nambatac, and Raymond Almazan came through for the Knights, who notched a second successive victory following their opening-day win over San Sebastian.
Although Cruz and Almazan led the Knights in scoring, it was the unflappable rookie Nambatac who buried two late, crucial free throws that kept the reeling Generals at bay and secured for the Knights the win.
“Parang hindi siya rookie maglaro. It’s easier to handle a player like that with full of confidence,” Knights coach Caloy Garcia said of Nambatac, the former NCAA Juniors’ MVP, who finished with 13 points.
Cruz fired 18, while Almazan tallied a second-straight double-double of 15 points and 17 boards that went with three blocks as he continued his transformation to a better-rounded player.
The slotman from Bataan punctuated his performance with a slam dunk to end the game.
Ford Ruaya also stepped up for the Knights in the absence of starting power forward Jojo Belorio, who remains out with a hand injury.
“We started the game sluggish at hanggang sa dulo sluggish pa rin. Buti na lang breaks of the game napunta sa amin,” Garcia said. “We already knew EAC’s gonna come out with a different mindset.”
The Generals, who suffered their second defeat in three days, were aching to recover from a huge 49-69 loss to University of Perpetual Help in their opening game.
They came out with a renewed vigor against the Knights as they went ahead after the first quarter and threatened late in the game before folding up.
Letran (79) -- Cruz 18, Almazan 15, Nambatac 13, Ruaya 11, Gabawan 8, Luib 5, Racal 5, Dysam 4, Tambeling 0, Buenaflor 0, Publico 0.
Emilio Aguinaldo (74) -- Morada 22, Arquero 20, Happi 10, King 7, Jamon 5, Tayongtong 4, Paguia 2, Castro 2, Hiole Manga 2, Munsayac 0.
Quarterscores: 14-18; 44-37; 63-57; 79-74.