REY Nambatac and Jon Von Jovi Tambeling, rookies who have shown brilliance in the preliminaries, hope to make up for their lackluster showing in the title series opener as Letran seeks to extend the finals against San Beda in Game Two on Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Counted on as a sparkplug aside from a being defensive stopper for the seniors’ team, 19-year-old guard Nambatac struggled to in the 68-80 loss in Game One, blaming his measly two-point performance on inexperience.
“Medyo tight ako nung Game One,” Nambatac, who averaged a shade under eight points per game in the elimination round, said in a chat with Spin.ph on Wednesday during a break in the Knights’ practice at the MOA Arena.
“Sobrang pag-iisip ng dapat kong gawin, hindi ko na tuloy nagagawa.”
The former NCAA juniors’ MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Mythical Five member has always fallen short of the title round, only reaching as far as the Final Four in his three years with the Letran Squires.
What he failed to do in high school he was able to achieve in his first year with the Knights, who made a second straight trip to the Finals opposite archrival San Beda.
Now he hopes his first title series appearance won’t be a short one.
Nambatac did a decent defensive job on Baser Amer in the first three quarters, when he limited the Red Lions star to just three points. But Amer scored eight in the final period that keyed San Beda’s win.
“Kulang ko lang hindi ako nakapag-contribute sa offense,” said Nambatac, who could only make one of seven shots in 23 minutes. “Hindi ko natulungan sila Raymond (Almazan).
Nambatac vowed to deliver on both ends of the floor when Game Two tips off at 2:30 p.m., as the Knights try to stay alive and force a deciding Game Three.
“Pero ngayon, yung opensa na gagawin ko at the same time depensa pa rin kay Amer,” he said. “Kailangan ko na talaga i-grab yung opportunity.”
Fellow rookie Tambeling was another Game One missing link, who likewise promised to recover.
“Nakakahiya sa mga teammate ko lalo na sa mga seniors namin,” the Misamis Oriental native said. “Ako pa naman yung isa sa mga inaasahan sa amin na mag-step up, kaya babawi ako bukas.”
Knights coach Caloy Garcia said Tambeling thought too much about his poor showing, but maintained his trust in the lefty shooter.
“Ayaw ko sa player yung masyadong malalim yung iniisip. Sabi ko sa kanila maging loose lang,” Garcia said.