The Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights are slowly finding there identity.
The defending NCAA champions bucked a slow fourth quarter in making the stops and clutch plays as the Knights staved-off the College of Saint Benilde Blazers, 56-52, to gain solo 4th in the NCAA Season 92 Seniors Basketball tournament.
Jom Sollano, coming off the bench for the third straight game, led the Knights with 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting and nine boards. JP Calvo and Bong Quinto chipped in 11 points apiece.
“Sinabi ko naman sa inyo hindi lang team ni Rey eto,” Letran head coach Jeff Napa said about Rey Nambatac, who was limited to just eight markers on 2-for-9 shooting. “Masaya ako na marami kaming bala.”
“Happy ako at least nag step-up yung lima. At least ngayon, nakikita ko na kung sino ang puwede talaga.”
The Knights torched the non-existent Benilde defense at the start of the third frame. Behind Calvo, Letran went on a 13-3 run to gain the biggest lead of the game, 42-38, with 3:38 remaining in the quarter. The Green and White though made a living from the foul stripe to close out the quarter on a 9-0 run to stay in the game.
“Alam naman namin na hahabol ang Benilde kaya it’s all about our defense, it’s all about us,” Napa added. “Naglalaro kami nung third quarter for sure bumitaw kami sa sarili namin, nakalimutan namin na team kami.”
Slowly, the Blazers were able to chip the Letran. With 2:03 remaining, the Taft cagers were able to cut the lead to just four, 52-48. After a timeout, Felix Apreku was able to drain a jumper to beat the shotblock. A 24 second violation by the Blazers led to a basket by Calvo with 13:2 ticks remaining to seal the game.
“Luckily nung crucial stretch, binalik nila yung sarili nila and we started to play defense again,” Napa closed.
Clement Leutcheu was the only Blazer in double-figures. He notched a double-double with 11 points and 13 boards. Christian Fajarito and Carlo Young chipped in nine markers each.
As a team, the Knights shot 39 percent from the field but Benilde shot even at a worse rate at 35 percent. Moreover, Letran was able to drain five triples in the game while the Blazers went 0-for-10 from downtown.
The Letran Knights (2-1) take a 13 day break before facing the Arellano Chiefs (2-0) on Thursday at 4:00pm. The Benilde Blazers (0-2), on the other hand, face the JRU Heavy Bombers on Tuesday, July 12 at 4:00pm
CSJL (56) – Sollano 16, Calvo 11, Quinto 11, Nambatac 8, Apreku 4, Balanza 4, Balagasay 2, Bernabe 0, Dela Pena 0, Luib 0, Sario 0.
CSB (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