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Mark Cruz’s end-game blur sinks Lyceum

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The Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights continued their rampaging run after whitewashing the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates, 74-57, earlier at the Filoil Flying V Arena.

Mark Cruz led all scorers with 26 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists while Kevin Racal followed up with 19 points and 6 rebounds. In addition, Jomar Sollano had 10 points, 3 rebounds and 4 blocks.

On the other hand, Victor Nguidjol paced LPU with a double-double feat of 20 points and 15 rebounds while Winston Baltazar followed up with 14 points and 5 rebounds.

The game started the wrong foot for Letran since they haven’t scored a single point for almost 4 minutes until Nambatac’s charities at the 6:01 mark. However, Nguidjol’s constant pounding in the paint would then extend LPU’s lead to 9-2. Sensing that the Pirates can take over the game, Letran’s Rey Namabatac, Cruz and Racal scored a bunch of points which eventually led to a 17-11 Letran lead at the end of the opening canto.

In the second period, Letran pressure defense started clicking and held LPU scoreless for six straight minutes which swelled their lead to 22-13. But despite the strong Letran surge, the Pirates would then conjure a run of their own and trim the opposition’s lead to 24-20 courtesy of key baskets from Shaq Alanes and Nguidjol. The halftime score was 28-25 in favor of Letran.

The second half was an entirely different story as Letran came out of the gates firing on all cylinders. Cruz and Nambatac’s triples ignited the Letran barrage which led to 36-28 lead. The pace of the game then slowed down which led to temporary scoring drought from both sides. After an LPU timeout, Nguidjol quickly turned things around once again carried the Pirates on his broad shoulders by constantly asserting himself in the paint which eventually gave LPU a 47-42 lead.

With the game up for grabs in the final quarter, Lyceum did all they could and even managed to build a 50-49 lead with 7:31 left in regulation. But Cruz once again proved to be the ultimate show stopper as he splashed outside shot after outside shot which blew the game wide open, 72-53, and eventually gave another win for the Knights.

“Nakatulog lang yan,” Coach Aldin Ayo said with regards to the blowout victory. “All the teams are still gunning for us so we all have to be ready.” In addition, he gave a stern warning about teams that are trying to play zone against them. “If they play zone against us, if it’s not Mark, it’s going to be Rey [Nambatac], it can be Jerrick [Balanza], [McJour] Luib, K-Racs, or Calvo who can gain the touch if they zone us,” he warned. “Yan ang pinapractice namin sa ensayo.”

– Arnold Cagang –

The scores:
CSJL (74) – Cruz 26, Racal 19, Sollano 10, Nambatac 9, Luib 5, Balagasay 4, Balanza 1, Apreku 0, Calvo 0, Quinto 0.
LPU (57) – Nguidjol 20, Baltazar 14, Lugo 6, Lacastesantos 4, Alanes 4, Ayaay 4, Bulawan 3, Taladua 2, Soliman 0, Marata 0, Mbida 0.
Quarterscores: 17-11, 28-25, 47-42, 74-57.

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