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Letran coasts past Emilio Aguinaldo, stays atop standings

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Mark Cruz continued to sizzle in Colegio de San Juan de Letran (CSJL) Knights’ wire-to-wire win over the Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) Generals, 86-76, to stay on top of the standings in the NCAA Seniors Basketball tournament.

Jorem Morada, who was instrumental in the Generals’ upset win over the Knights in the first round, was not in uniform in this game due to disciplinary sanctions.

The Knights quickly blasted the Paco-based squad in gaining an early 12-2 lead. Team captain Mark Cruz and third year guard Rey Nambatac sparked the rally. The Aldin Ayo-mentored squad also imposed their deadly pressure defense that forced Emilio Aguinaldo to turnovers.

After the first quarter that saw Letran hold 26-16 lead, the Generals were able to chip in to the lead with successful outlet passes to break the press. Moreover, Sidney Onwubere and Francis Munsayac slashed their way into the lane to either convert on layups or to get fouled by the frontline of the Knights. Onwubere had 12 points in the first half on a 100% shooting clip while Munsayac added seven points and three assists. However, the Knights were still able to keep a 43-36 lead going into halftime.

The Knights forced the Generals to an alarming 20 turnovers in the first half that resulted to 19 turnover points. The Paco-based squad were able to keep close by keeping pace with the shooting of their opponents.

The third quarter was a sight for sore eyes as the entire ten minutes of action was plagued by fouls. The Generals were able to cut the lead to just six points due to free throws at the 8:12 mark. Kevin Racal then displayed his highly versatile game in scoring on a layup then assisting on conversions by Cruz and Christian Balagaysay to give the league-leaders a 53-39 lead. As the Knights’ tried to pull away behind the hot shooting of the Ant Man, Enjerico Diego, and Sidney Onwubere powered their way in the lane to end the quarter with Letran to cut the lead. However, with just two seconds remaining, Mcjour Luib was able to find an open Mark Cruz for a triple to give their team a 67-58 lead going into the fourth.

With the Generals making a final push in cutting the lead to just six with 7:59 remaining, the Knights barricaded the hard court in containing their opponents with traps that again forced turnovers. Cruz then led the charge on offense in scoring on pull-up jumpers. The lead swelled to as high as 84-69 before Munsayac’s jumpers made the score respectable in the end, 86-76.

“This is a big win for us since they beat us in the first round,” said coach Aldin Ayo after the game. Moreover, Ayo commended the Knights in keeping true to the essence of being a student-athlete. “They are having their midterms right now kaya puyat karamihan ng mga bata. Some of them even had their exams earlier.” The coach also added that the Letran basketball program is emphasizing more on education over basketball.

Mark Cruz was once again astonishing in scoring 29 points on 11/20 shooting. He added three triples and four assists. Smart Elite ambassador Rey Nambatac was just 4/11 from the field in scoring 11 points and grabbed ten rebounds.

The Generals were a two-man squad as Smart Elite ambassador Francis Munsayac and Sidney Onwubere both scored 24 and 22 respectively. Onwubere added ten rebounds but committed eight turnovers while Munsayac added four rebounds and five assists.

The Knights (9-2) look to build another streak in facing the Lyceum Pirates on Friday, September 4 at 4:00pm while the Generals (2-9) face the CSB Blazers on the same day at 2:00pm.

The Scores:
CSJL (86) – Cruz 29, Nambatac 11, Luib 9, Quinto 9, Racal 8, Apreku 7, Sollano 7, Balagasay 6, Balanza 0, Calvo 0, Bernabe 0.
EAC (76) – Munsayac 24, Onwubere 22, Bonleon 7, Hamadou 7, Pascua 6, Diego 6, Mejos 4, Pascual 0, Corilla 0, Estacio 0, Mallari 0.
Quarterscores: 26-16, 43-36, 67-58, 86-76.

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