DESPITE already owning a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four, Letran vows not to let-up when it battles San Sebastian on Saturday in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
The Knights, now assured of one of the top two spots at the end of the elimination round after turning back University of Perpetual Help, 74-61, last Thursday, play their second game in three days, this time against the Golden Stags, at 6 p.m.
The Knights have now regained their bearings after a slow start in the second round, winning their last three games. They are now tied with three-time defending champion San Beda on top with a 13-3 win-loss mark.
“Lalaban pa rin kami with the same mindset kasi madadala namin yun sa Final Four,” star point guard Mark Cruz said. “Kailangan namin `yung consistency.”
Cruz and Raymond Almazan delivered as usual, but it was third fiddle Kevin Racal who shone brightest on Thursday when he underscored his status as a do-it-all cager.
The 22-year-old junior forward registered 18 points, seven boards, and five assists, while holding his on at the defensive end against top rookie Juneric Baloria.
Racal limited Baloria, the league’s leading scorer, to just 15 points on a paltry 3-of-17 shooting after exploding for 28 markers in their first round encounter.
“Hindi ko masyado inisip `yung opensa. Una kong inisip kung paano ko ma-stop `yung bantay ko, tulad ni Baloria,” Racal said. “Sa defense nagsi-simula `yung offense namin.”
Coming in the game oozing with confidence, Knights coach Caloy Garcia remains cautious of the Stags, running fourth with a 9-6 slate, in what could be a potential semifinals matchup.
“We can’t slack off kasi hindi pa rin sila sigurado na makakapasok.”
A win for the Stags will eliminate Arellano and Jose Rizal University, tied in sixth spot with a 6-9 record, from Final Four contention.
The Heavy Bombers battle also-ran Lyceum (5-10) earlier in the first game at 4 p.m.