By Vito Martin
A stellar performance by King Gurtiza propelled Emilio Aguinaldo College to a 75-65 victory over defending champion Colegio de San Juan de Letran to stay perfect in the NCAA Season 99 Seniors Basketball Tournament at the Filoil Ecooil Centre on Sunday.
Gurtiza posed a significant challenge for Letran, contributing a game-high 23 points, six rebounds, and three assists – all while playing robust defense against Kurt Reyson on the other end.
JP Maguilano also made valuable contributions with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists. Meanwhile, Nat Cosejo added 11 points for the Generals, six of which came in the fourth quarter when EAC pulled ahead.
EAC made it a priority to guard Letran’s star player Reyson hounding him on defense in order to force Letran’s supporting cast to step up. Reyson was limited to seven points on 1-of-12 shooting as the Knights struggled to ignite their offense.
“Si Reyson sobrang galing eh. Mahirap ideny, mahirap istop, kaya all-out lang talaga, binigay ko lahat ng lakas ko para sa kanya. Pinaghandaan ko tong game na ito,” shared Gurtiza.
In the third quarter, at the 4:53 mark, Letran’s Kier Galvez had to be assisted off the floor due to an apparent leg injury, further limiting the options of the Intramuros squad on offense.
Despite their struggles, a layup from Reyson with 3:40 remaining in the fourth quarter helped Letran take a 63-60 advantage, which was their largest lead of the game.
With momentum favoring Letran, EAC regained control of the game by outscoring Letran 15-2 in the final three minutes, securing the victory.
This game marked the Generals’ first win over the Knights in eight years, with the last victory dating back to NCAA Season 91.
However, for coach Jerson Cabiltes, their past encounters with Letran matter very little. He is focused on the rest of Season 99.
“Actually, I’m not after the record, beating an opponent na matagal na naming di tinatalo. We’re right here, and our mission is to make it to the Final Four, and we will take it one game at a time,” said Cabiltes.
The Generals will face Jose Rizal University on Wednesday, October 4, 2023, at 4:00 p.m. at the Filoil Ecooil Centre.
The Knights are off to a 0-3 start in their quest for their fourth consecutive title.
Only two players reached double-digits for Letran, with Vince Cuajao leading the way with 12 points, closely followed by Paolo Javillonar with 11.
Letran’s next game is against San Beda University on Friday, October 6, 2023, at the Filoil Ecooil Centre.
EAC 75 – Gurtiza 23, Maguilano 14, Cosejo 11, Ochavo 6, Umpad 4, Cosa 3, Bacud 3, Quinal 3, Robin 2, Tolentino 2, Luciano 2, Ednilag 2, Balowa 0, Dominguez 0
Letran 65 – Cuajao 12, Javillonar 11, Galvez 9, Reyson 7, Monje 7, Go 6, Ariar 5, Fajardo 3, Tolentino 3, Batallier 2, Santos 0
Quarterscores: 22-20, 39-35, 56-52, 75-65