Colegio de San Juan de Letran was on another plane, overwhelming erstwhile undefeated Mapua University, 80-60, in the NCAA Season 97 seniors basketball tournament, Friday at La Salle Green Hills’ St. Benilde Gym in Mandaluyong City.
The win also was the first wire-to-win for the defending champions for the season, taking solo lead in the standings with a 4-0 slate. The Knights also dropped the Cardinals to a 3-1 record for solo third.
Letran went a man down at the 4:59 mark of the first quarter as Louie Sangalang was slapped with a disqualifying foul for hitting the ball on Mapua’s Warren Bonifacio.
The rest of the big men of the Knights, though, stepped up big time as they blew the game out as early as the second quarter. Christian Fajarito and Jeo Ambohot scored four points each in Letran’s 10-point run to extend the lead to 25 points, 57-32, at the end of the first half.
“Yung last game ko, medyo masama eh,” Ambohot admitted. “Sabi rin nila coach na, ‘Sobrang sama, kailangan mong mag-step up.’ Lalo na yung nawala si Sangalang. Yun, minotivate ko yung sarili ko dun.”
From there, super rookie Rhenz Abando put on the finishing touches for the Knights with an array of highlights including an alley-oop finish from Tommy Olivario, with 2:21 left in the third, and then a one-handed slam, at 8:17 in the fourth quarter.
Mapua went on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to 17, 57-74, with 2:44 left in the game, but the lead was too huge as time ran out.
Team captain Ambohot bounced back for the Knights, ending with a double-double performance of 16 points and 12 rebounds to go with a block.
Abando was prolific off-the-bench with 14 markers, nine boards, two assists, and one steal, while Brent Paraiso broke out of his slump to finish with 10 points, five rebounds, and four assists.
Toby Agustin paced Mapua with 14 points and four rebounds. Bonifacio, though, was limited by the Letran defense to six markers and three rebounds before the Cardinals’ captain fouled out late in the fourth quarter.
“May tiwala naman ako sa mga coaches namin. Susundin lang namin yung ipapagawa nila sa ‘min. Siguro naman tuturuan nila kung paano manalo,” Ambohot said as they go for a longer break before their next game.
Letran will now go up against Lyceum of the Philippines University (1-3) on April 17 at 3 p.m., following a reschedule of their game against rivals San Beda.
On the other hand, Mapua will go for a bounce-back win when they face Arellano University (1-3) on April 13 at 12 NN.
Letran 80 – Ambohot 16, Abando 14, Paraiso 10, Javillonar 10, Caralipio 8, Fajarito 6, Mina 5, Reyson 5, Yu 3, Guarino 3, Olivario 0, Sangalang 0.
Mapua 60 – Agustin 14, Pido 9, Hernandez 8, Gamboa 6, Bonifacio 6, Garcia 6, Mercado 4, Lacap 3, Milan 2, Asuncion 2, Nocum 0, Salenga 0, Sual 0.
Quarterscores: 20-12, 47-32, 63-42, 80-60.