LETRAN put an end to a rare early-season struggle as it trounced Mapua, 79-67, on Wednesday to finally barge into the win column of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Kevin Racal sustained his fine all-around play for the Knights, while Mark Cruz regained his old form as the Knights pounced on the Cardinals’ own difficulties to register their first win in three games.
It was morale-boosting win for the Knights, who had been mired in their worst start since 2010 when they also dropped their first two assignments.
While the Knights ended their losing streak, the Cardinals kept theirs, losing for the third straight time.
“Sa wakas nanalo rin,”said Racal, who tallied 24 points, four boards, four assists, a steal, and a block. “Sabi ni coach Caloy ‘manalo naman tayo. Nakakasawa na matalo eh.’ Syempre as one of the leaders, minotivate ko yung mga teammate ko. Yun lang naman kailangan namin eh.”
almost singlehandedly carrying the Knights last time, Racal formed a lethal combination with Cruz against the Cardinals.
Limited to just six points and benched in the endgame following two crucial errors in the loss to Lyceum, Cruz registered 23 in 28 minutes this time.
Rey Nambatac also provided significant support with 11 points and seven boards, while Ford Ruaya churned out eight points and eight rebounds against the Cardinals, who stayed toe to toe with the Knights in the first quarter, before the Knights pulled away and maintained a double-digit cushion.
“Nakapag-adjust na rin kami,” said Knights assistant coach Gerard Francisco, who spoke in lieu of head mentor Caloy Garcia, who, along with Mike Buendia, had to rush to the Smart-Araneta Coliseum for the PBA Finals. Garcia and Buendia are the top deputies of Yeng Guiao at Rain or Shine.
The Knights prevailed despite shooting just 38 percent from the field, while allowing the Cardinals to make 45 percent of their shots.
CSJL 79 – Racal 24, Cruz 23, Nambatac 11, Ruaya 8, Publico 4, Castro 2, Saldua 2, Quinto 2, Gabawan 2, Dela Pena 1, Calvo 0, Tambeling 0, Luib 0, Apreku 0, Singontiko 0
MIT 67 – Saitanan 17, Cantos 12, Biteng 9, Eriobu 9, Canaynay 8, Estrella 4, Isit 2, Gabo 2, Tubiano 2, Serrano 2, Galoso 0
Quarterscores: 16-15, 42-32, 64-52, 79-67