Defending champion Letran immediately bounced back in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tourney on Tuesday behind veteran wingman Rey Nambatac’s game-long offensive brilliance in their 76-72 victory over Emilio Aguinaldo College at The Arena in San Juan.
The 6-foot-1 Nambatac, 22, waxed hot all game long with 33 points—his personal collegiate career-high—built around on gutsy layups, timely jumpers and a pair of booming triples, standing tall in Letran’s offensive attack that enabled them to recover from a four-point setback dealt by archrival and host San Beda over the weekend.
However, Letran’s first-year coach Jeff Napa was hardly surprised with Nambatac’s performance, saying he’s more pleased to see his prized wingman make a strong finish after getting slowed down by cramps in the stretch during their painful loss to the Red Lions.
“Given naman na ‘yung performance ni Rey. Good thing natapos niya ‘yung laro,” Napa told sports scribes during the post-match press conference, with Napa sitting beside him.
“Happy ako kay Rey kasi hindi na siya ganun kagigil. Na-settle down na niya ‘yung sarili niya kaya naging maganda ang resulta para sa amin,” he added.
A proud Cagayan de Oro City native, Nambatac admitted he’s happy that he was able to “contribute sa team lalo’t nanalo pa kami.”
But the Knights’ collective effort to put the bitter lessons into good use spelled the key, according to Nambatac.
“‘Yung mga lapses namin nu’ng first game, naitama namin kaya maganda ang kinalabasan,” he said, adding they still cannot afford to be satisfied at all with their latest big performance.
“It’s a long way to go. Marami pang games na lalaruan. Itong last two games, motivation sa amin ‘yun,” Nambatac stressed.
Up next for Letran is unpredictable College of St. Benilde on Friday also at the San Juan-based venue. – By Jerome Lagunzad
Follow this writer on Twitter: @JLFoxSports