LETRAN’S other “Kevin” sparkled as the Knights scored a huge 82-67 victory over San Sebastian on Saturday night for solo fourth place in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball competition at The Arena in San Juan.
With star guard Kevin Alas hobbled by foul trouble, Kevin Racal stepped up and delivered the telling blows in the third quarter where the Knights gained the upper hand and never looked back.
Alas, coming off a career-high 35 points, still came up with his usual numbers as he finished with 23 points, seven boards, and four assists.
But it was Racal’s third-quarter explosion that mattered most for the Knights, who improved to 9-6 and leapfrogged Jose Rizal University in the standings.
“It was a hard-fought game and I have to give credit to Racal,” Knights coach Louie Alas said of the athletic forward, who found the mark in the third when he pumped in 10 of his 18 points. “He’s really the barometer of this team.”
The Knights, who also got ample support from heady playmaker Mark Cruz, and big men Jam Cortes and Raymond Almazan, swept the Stags, 2-0, in their head-to-head matchup this season. Letran beat San Sebastian, 80-74, on opening day.
The Knights’ chance of repeating over the Stags appeared bleak early on.
Trailing by two at the half, the Knights suffered a major blow after Alas, son of the coach, went back to the bench for picking up his fourth foul with still six minutes and 24 seconds to go in the third.
But thanks to the timely baskets of Racal, Cruz, Cortes, and Almazan, the Knights finished the quarter on top, 59-57.
The Knights could not seem to miss in the payoff period as they continued their onslaught and outscored their opponents, 23-10.
Until the Knights broke away, the game was a tightly-fought one with 20 lead changes and eight deadlocks.
Reigning MVP Calvin Abueva put up another monster game for the Stags, tallying 27 points, 18 rebounds, and three assists, but his workmanlike effort wasn’t enough as the second-running Stags lost for the fourth time in 15 games.
As a team, the Stags struggled from the floor as they shot a paltry 27 percent.
Ian Sangalang had a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds, but Ronald Pascual, held scoreless in their first-round meeting, was only good enough for six points on a 2-of-18 shooting clip.
Letran (82) -- K. Alas 23, Racal 18, Cruz 14, Cortes 10, Almazan 7, Lituania 6, Belorio 2, J. Alas 2, Luib 0, Gabriel 0
San Sebastian (67) -- Abueva 27, Sangalang 15, Miranda 9, Pascual 6, Gusi 4, Dela Cruz 3, Juico 2, Antipuesto 1, Rebollos 0, Binuya 0
Quarterscores: 17-19, 34-35, 59-57, 82-67.