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Letran punches twice-to-beat seat, eliminates Perpetual

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The Knights pulls through in the most crucial of moments.

“Kung ano mang sakit ang naramdaman niyo, you have to savor this. Ayokong lumabas kayo para lang makalimutan ang sakit na ito. Pag-uwi niyo sa quarters, umupo kayo sa isang tabi at damdamin niyo yung sakit dahil ibubuhos natin iyan sa ensayo,” was the message sent out by Letran head coach Aldin Ayo to his Knights after their loss to San Beda.

The Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights threw their frustrations out of the window and massacred the Perpetual Altas and end their post-season dreams with a 93-64 held at the Filoil Flying V Arena on Friday.

As the Knights re-inserted Mark Cruz as their starting guard to run the point, Letran went fuming from the field scoring wise as they dictated the momentum from the opening tip. The graduating Cruz dished out early dimes and seven points in an early 12-0 massacre against the stunned Perpetual Altas in just three minutes.

Letran continued its strong start with the help of their lockdown defense as Perpetual committed turnovers that slowed down scoring for the Altas. The lead ballooned to as high as 15 in the 3:25 mark of the first with Rey Publico making an inside stab. Seconds later, Rey Nambatac suffered a collision as he hit Perpetual’s Coronel that took him out of the match. Good thing for the Knights, they maintained the lead as they finished the opening quarter up 21-10.

Still sizzling, the Knights started the next quarter on a 12-2 rampage with most of their baskets coming from the transition. Points came the hard way for the Altas as they only got three baskets halfway through the period. To add to their woes, Perpetual entered the penalty situation early which Letran took full advantage.

Cruz once again steered the offense with six more points in the tail-end of the first half as they hit half the century mark scoring-wise against Perpetual’s 26. They also had 26 points off 19 turnovers made by Perpetual at the half which translated to a 54% clip.

Nambatac re-entered the match at the six-minute mark of the third quarter which served good news for Letran. At that time, Letran was still cruising with a 20 point lead despite Bright Akhuetie starting to make his presence felt. Just like the second period, Perpetual couldn’t contain fouling as they gave Letran a lot of free throw attempts as they entered penalty early in the quarter clock.

With frustrations settling in for the Altas, poor mental lapses affected their rhythm both in shooting and decision making on the floor. Meanwhile, the lead kept growing for Letran they led by as much as 33 during the 3rd at one point, 68-35.

In the final period, Perpetual had a hard time overcoming the big lead set up by the Knights. The Altas made baskets but everything just went clicking for Letran, who responded and trade baskets with them. With 5:47 left in the game, emotions started to take place as frustration took over for the Altas. The heated atmosphere started from GJ Ylagan making a closed fist scuffle followed by Chris Elopre being ejected from the match for instigating a fight from all the way from their bench.

“Bumawi lang ‘to dahil sa sama ng nilaro namin sa San Beda,” Ayo said after the game. “Nakuha namin yung gusto naming tira sa San Beda pero hindi lang pumapasok. Ngayon, pumasok.”

During their practices, the Knights focused on how to stop Thompson to even putting his imprints in the game. “In-eliminate namin siya tulad nung first game namin. Sabi namin papagurin namin siya. Pagkakuha pa lang niya ng bola, hindi na namin pinabayaan kaya napagod.”

Moreover, they eliminated Akhuetie and Eze from the equation. “Finront namin yung dalawang [foreign student-athlete] nila. Kasi pag hindi namin ginawa yun, delikado kami.”

The seniors paved the way for the win as Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal combined for 33 points. Racal was 6 of 10 from the field while Cruz almost notched a double-double by dishing out eight assists. Rey Publico also played the game of his life in scoring ten markers on an 80% clip before fouling out.

In his last collegiate game, Earl Scottie Thompson was limited to just seven points on 2 of 11 shooting. Moreover, he was just three of nine from the charity stripe. Foreign student-athletes Prince Eze and Bright Akhuetie combined for 37 points with Eze topscoring with 24.

As a team, the Altas outrebounded the Knights 56-32 but turnovers (32) and poor shooting (33%) held the Las Pinas-based squad to just 64 points. Letran shot 46% from the field and 22/35 from the foul stripe.

With the win, the Knights tie the Red Lions for the top spot with a 13-5 slate. The two will face each other again at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on Tuesday, October 13 at 4:00pm. The Perpetual Altas will settle for 6th place with an 11-7 record.

The Scores:
CSJL (93) – Cruz 18, Racal 15, Luib 10, Publico 10, Balanza 8, Quinto 8, Sollano 6, Nambatac 6, Gedaria 5, Bernabe 3, Apreku 2, Balagasay 2, Dela Pena 0.
UPHSD (64) – Eze 24, Akhuetie 13, Thompson 7, Pido 6, Dizon 5, Dagangon 4, Oleveria 2, Coronel 2, Ylagan 1, Tamayo 0, Bantayan 0, Gallardo 0, Sadiwa 0.
Quarterscores: 21-10, 50-26, 72-41, 93-64.

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