Letran wingman Rey Nambatac’s biggest fear became a reality against arch-rival San Beda on Saturday, setting the Knights’ title-retention bid in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tourney off on the wrong foot.
Nambatac saw his all-around brilliance go down the drain when he was slowed down by cramps on his right leg in the stretch, enabling the Red Lions to hold off the Knights’ searing second-half fightback for an 89-85 victory at the Mall of Asia Arena.
With top stars Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal no longer around, Nambatac showed why he’s considered by many as the next ‘King Knight,’ collecting 18 markers, nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals while providing the spark in their uprising from an early 13-point deficit.
A proud Cagayan de Oro native, Nambatac scored an easy lay-up off a steal, cutting Letran’s deficit to 74-80, but went down due to his cramping leg and was eventually carried off the floor with less than three minutes left to play.
He wasn’t utilized from then on.
“Actually sa buong paglalaro ko ng basketball, ngayon lang ako nag-cramps ng ganito so hindi ko rin in-expect na ganun ‘yung mangyayari sa akin kanina,” Nambatac said after emerging from their dug-out, his right leg still swollen. “Pinipilit ko lang kanina kasi ‘yun ‘yung Arriba spirit talaga.”
With the Knights still in the thick of the fight, Nambatac shared he tried his best to be fielded back in but the Letran coaching staff, headed by coach Jeff Napa, refused to give him the green light to avoid further injury.
“‘Yung PT namin, sinabihan na ako na ‘Tama na, ‘wag na pumasok kasi hindi mo na kaya.’ Nu’ng nakita kong humahabol pa kami, kinausap ko na papasok ako ulit. Pero pinigilan ako. Marami pa naman games, 17 games pa,” he said.
While he shared his plans of undergoing therapy in the next days ahead of their June 28 battle against Emilio Aguinaldo College, Nambatac felt his too much eagerness did him in.
“Kung masyado kang eager sa court, napapasama. ‘Yun ‘yung nangyari sa akin,” said Nambatac, an observation echoed by Napa.
“‘Yung gigil factor andu’n. Nasobrahan kaya siguro lumabas lahat,” Napa said. “But I’m sure Rey will bounce back and the other players as well.” – By Jerome Lagunzad
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