Defending champion Letran stopped erstwhile streaking San Sebastian College on Friday night, essaying a 73-61 win to boost its Final Four drive in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.
Guard JP Calvo played a solid backup role to star wingman Ray Nambatac as he tallied half of his 16 points in the third canto where the Knights took control, before doing enough in the stretch to hold off the Golden Stags’ uprising.
The victory, its second straight over San Sebastian after beating the Stags, 90-77 last July 19, improved Letran’s mark to an even 7-7.
The Knights kept themselves within striking distance versus fourth-running Mapua (8-5) and no. 5 Jose Rizal U (8-6) with four matches remaining in the eliminations.
Letran’s first-year coach Jeff Napa isn’t eager to look that far ahead.
“(It’s a ) long way to go. Hindi na para intindihin namin ‘yung mga nasa itaas. Kailangan intindihin muna namin ‘yung sarili namin bago namin problemahin kung saan man kami aabutin,” he stressed.
The 6-foot-1 Nambatac also scored 16 points on top of six rebounds and two steals, while getting enough support from his Letran teammates like Calvo, Felix Preku, Bong Quinto and Jom Sollano to foil San Sebastian.
The Stags saw its four-game winning streak come to a halt while dropping to a 5-10 record.
“It’s a collective effort, hindi lang kay JP. Everybody sacrificed kaya naging maganda ang game namin,” added Napa, who got 39 points from their bench players, 15 more than their Baste counterparts.
Golden Stags forward Michael Calisaan led all scorers with 24 markers but gunner RK Ilagan groped for form throughout, coming up with just one points while missing all of his seven attempts from the field, no thanks to Calvo’s hounding defense. – Jerome Lagunzad
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Letran (73) – Nambatac 16, Calvo 16, Apreku 9, Quinto 9, Sollano 8, Ambohot 5, Bernabe 5, Balanza 4, Luib 1, Balagasay 0, Sario 0.
San Sebastian (61) – Calisaan 24, Costelo 12, Capobres 7, David 6, Bulanadi 5, Baetiong 2, Sera Josef 2, Valdez 2, Ilagan 1, Gayosa 0, Quipse 0, Calma 0, Mercado 0, Fabian 0.
Quarterscores: 15-15, 36-28, 53-41, 73-61.