The Letran Knights’ writ-and-grit defense continues to confound the opponents offensive schemes. This time, it was the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers who felt the wrath of the defense in a 78-62 route Friday evening at the FilOil Flying V Arena.
The game started off as a low scoring affair as both teams displayed great defense. Both the Knights and the Heavy Bombers utilized a press that had both teams scrabbling all over the court. In addition, the big men of JRU, namely Abdoul Poutouochi and Abdulrazak Abdulwahab were in foul trouble early on as they could not keep up with the pace of the game. The opening quarter ended with Letran holding on to a solitary point lead, 14-13.
Rey Nambatac exploded in the second quarter in scoring to majority of his 19 first half points in the quarter. Nambatac was 3/4 from downtown in the half. Moreover, the Knights kept busy in the offensive glass as they furiously crashed the boards that resulted to nine offensive rebounds. For the Heavy Bombers, Dave Sanchez paced the team with his eight points while super sub Paolo Pontejos connected on all three of his shots from distance to keep up with the Blue-and-red squad’s pace. The Knights were able to extend their lead to 40-36 entering halftime.
The Knights came out of their locker room with guns blazing. The full court press imposed by the Aldin Ayo-mentored squad created chaos resulting to JRU turnovers. Even in breaking the press, the constant switching on defense resulted to almost all their shot attempts being contested.
With the score at 44-40 in favor of CSJL at the 7:09 mark of the third quarter, Letran unleashed a huge 17-0 rally behind the hot shooting of Kevin Racal and Kier Quinto. Both Letranites assisted of each other that resulted to wide open threes. The rally spanned a total of five minutes and seven seconds before the Rizalians would score. To end the quarter, JRU made a mini spurt behind putbacks by Marco Balagtas and a layup by Abdulwahab. The quarter ended with Letran holding a 63-49 lead.
In the final quarter, the yellow-and-blue team could not find an answer to the controlled chaos set by the Intramuros-based squad on defense. Cold-blooded back-to-back threes by Nambatac and Cruz extended the lead to 74-56 with 2:44 remaining. In addition, Felix Apreku continued his hussle on crashing the boards and disrupting any momentum gained by JRU’s foreign student athletes. Letran took its second win in as many games in slaying the heavy-favored JRU squad 78-62.
After the game, the chaos created by the defense of Letran is a result of putting order first. “Yung gulo na sinasabi, bago namin gawin yun, we put order first,” Ayo said. “By the time the player becomes responsible, puwede na siyang pakawalan para manggulo.” He also commended the hard playing, undersized center Felix Apreku. “Ang trabaho niya ay manggulo at tumalon. Na-out rebound pa nga niya ang centers ng Jose Rizal.”
Rey Nambatac was brilliant all throughout the game in scoring 25 points while shooting 9/21 from the field. The returning Kevin Racal, who according to him is at 70% strength, scored 15 points. The big men of Letran, Apreku and Sollano, combined for 22 rebounds, compared to only 12 rebounds produced by the centers of JRU. For JRU, Pontejos and Abdulwahab both scored 11 points apiece.
As a team CSJL shot a poor 35% from the field but converted on 16 of their 22 attempts. Moreover, the Letran Knights connected on 13 three pointers, a good 40% clip from downtown. The undersized Letran team also outrebounded Jose Rizal 46-37.
The Knights next face the Mapua Cardinals on Friday, June 10 at 12:00nn while the Heavy Bombers face the Altas at the same day at 2:00pm.
CSJL (78) – Nambatac 25, Racal 15, Cruz 12, Sollano 10, Quinto 6, Luib 3, Calvo 3, Apreku 2, Balanza 2, Balagaysay 0
JRU (62) – Pontejos 11, Abdulwahab 11, Sanchez 10, Grospe 9, Dela Paz 8, Lasquety 6, Balagtas 4, Teodoro 3, Poutouochi 0, Aurin 0, Dela Virgen 0
Quarters: 14-13, 40-36, 63-49, 78-62.