There is more to Letran than just prolific wingman Rey Nambatac.
Big man Jom Sollano, guard JP Calvo and undersized center Felix Apreku provided timely buckets in the crunch as the Knighs survived the St. Benilde Blazers 56-52 for their second straight win in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tourney at The Arena in San Juan.
The 6-foot-5 Sollano, 22, dished out his finest showing thus far with 16 points and nine rebounds while the diminutive Calvo and Apreku hit crucial baskets in the payoff canto, allowing the Knights to hold off the Blazers’ searing charge from an 18-point deficit early in the third.
The shaky victory came on the heels of Letran’s 76-70 triumph over Emilio Aguinaldo College last Tuesday, helping it improve to 2-1 while dealing St. Benilde its second consecutive setback.
Making the win more impressive was the fact that the Knights overcame a rough shooting night from Nambatac, who struggled from the field, making just two of his nine attempts and finishing with just eight markers, way below the league season-high of 33 points he made in their win over the Generals.
“Sabi ko naman sa inyo hindi lang team ni Rey ‘to,” said Letran coach Jeff Napa, very impressed with how the Knights’ ‘others’ step up. “Masaya ako kasi marami na ako magiging bala. Happy ako at least nag-step up ‘yung iba at hindi lang si Rey.”
Apreku, a shade under 6-foot-2, held his ground anew down low against St. Benilde’s Cameroonian import Clement Leutcheu, hauling down seven rebounds while scoring a pair of field goals, the last a clutch 10-footer that helped Letran stretch its lead back to six at 54-48 with under two minutes left.
“Ngayon nakikita ko na talaga kung sino ‘yung pwede. Hindi rin naman kami nagre-rely sa isang player lang. Ngayon lumalabas na mayroon kaming ibang players na pwede mapagkuhanan (ng puntos),” added Napa.
The 6-foot-6 Leutcheu finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds while locals Christian Fajarito and Carlo Young had at least nine markers each, providing the needed spark in their big fightback in the second half when they tried to overhaul a 21-39 but ran out of steam, leading to their second loss.
“Alam naman namin na babalik ang Benilde. It’s a matter of (sustaining our) defense and it’s all about us. After third, bumitaw kami. Luckily nu’ng crcuail stretch, they regrouped,” said Napa. – By Jerome Lagunzad
LETRAN (56) – Sollano 16, Calvo 11, Quinto 11, Nambatac 8, Apreku 4, Balanza 4, Balagasay 2, Bernabe 0, Dela Pena 0, Luib 0, Sario 0
ST. BENILDE (52) – Leutcheu 11, Fajarito 9, Young 9, Dixon 8, Pasamante 7, Sta. Maria 6, Belgica 0, Castor 0, Domingo 0, Pajarillaga 0, Saavedra 0, San Juan 0
Quarterscores: 13-9, 29-20, 43-35, 56-52.