LETRAN proved too much for University of Perpetual Help to put away a 79-71 win and seize the solo lead in the NCAA Season 91 seniors basketball tournament on Thursday at The Arena in San Juan.
Mark Cruz and Rey Nambatac scored 15 points apiece to lead the way for the Knights, who broke open a close game behind a third-quarter run that left the Altas with a mountain to climb.
The Knights improved to 5-0 — the Intramuros-based school's best start to a season since their 7-0 start two years ago.
Letran rookie coach Aldin Ayo, however, refuses to be carried away.
“We are just in the right spot (and) good position right now but in terms of achievement, wala pa, mahaba pa (ang tournament),” said Ayo.
The Altas dropped to 4-1 after the first real test to their title credentials.
The Knights had 13 steals against five by the Altas, and came up with 25 turnover points from Perpetual Help’s 27 errors.
Letran also got sloppy and turned the ball over 21 times, but Perpetual Help failed to capitalize and scored only 12. The Altas also outrebounded the Knights, 41-36.
Cruz went 3 for 5 from the arc and grabbed four rebounds, dished out four assists and got one steal, while Nambatac had seven boards, two assists, five steals and one block.
Jomari Sollano scored 14 and McJour Luib added 11 markers for Letran.
Nambatac sparked a 9-1 run early in the third to give Letran a 45-35 lead. Earl Thompson managed to lift Perpetual to within, 53-58, at the start of the fourth period but Letran widened the gap, 63-53.
“Gusto namin ilagay ang tempo sa style ng laro namin,” said Ayo.
Thompson had 22 points, Gabriel Dagangon scored 12 and Prince Eze had 10 for the Altas.
Letran 79: Nambatac 15, Cruz 15, Sollano 14, Racal 11, Luib 8, Quinto 8, Calvo 4, Apreku 2, Publico 2, Buenaflor 0.
Perpetual Help 71: Thompson 22, Dagangon 12, Eze 10, Akhuetie 7, Ylagan 6, Coronel 5, Dizon 3, Oliveria 2, Elopre 2, Gallardo 1, Sadiwa 1, Tamayo 0, Cabiltes 0, Pido 0.
Quarterscores: 16-27; 36-34; 58-51; 79-71.