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Painful defeat not dampening Letran’s spirits

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Aldin Ayo and his resilient Letran Knights were one win away from winning the coveted championship but they ultimately fell short against the San Beda Red Lions, 61-68, yesterday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

It was the usual suspects from the Knights as they got all-around efforts from pro-bound seniors Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal. The former finished the game with 21 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 steals while the latter followed up with 9 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists.

In addition, McJour Luib also posted another solid outing by chalking up 10 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.

The difference this time, however, was the subpar performance of the Knights’ Rey Nambatac. After finishing the opening game with 18 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals, the third-year guard went cold in the ensuing contest as he went scoreless in 25 minutes of action.

“We lost pero I’m optimistic coming on Game Three kasi nandoon ang effort; 32 turnovers sila [at] 11 lang kami,” Ayo told reporters after coming out from the team’s dugout. “Bottomline, [sa] basketball, kung sino ang pinakadaming puntos, siya ang mananalo. So hindi sa amin iyon, hindi kami nakashoot, as simple as that.”

It was really an untimely dip for the team’s shooting. During the first game, Letran was efficient from the field after connecting 34 of their 75 field goal attempts (12/28 on three-pointers and 22/47 on two-pointers) and 14 of their 20 trips to the free throw line.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Painful defeat not dampening Letran’s spirits

Come the second game of the series, the Knights only connected 24 of its 83 field goal attempts (5/26 on three pointers and 19/57 in two-pointers) and 8 out of their 16 trips to the free throw line.

“It is still our game. Iyon pa rin ang laro namin. Have you seen the stats? 29 percent field goal [shooting]. Iyong tinira namin [na attempts is] 84,” Ayo further explained. “I think sa kanila [San Beda] 40 plus so iyon ang istorya doon.”

“Same as that, free throws. Pag free throw kasi, once you miss the free throw, focus [dapat]. Kahit masama ang form mo, basta nakafocus ka, makakashoot ka doon. So it’s mental.”

With the series now tied at 1-1, Ayo now expects that his team must continue to play tirelessly as they have shown from the start. He also added that his team’s collective effort on the defensive end will be one of the crucial points in making up for their disadvantages in some areas.

“[The game was a] classic in terms of effort pero in terms of basketball, hindi ko maiisip kung paano. Siguro pag once na ipinasok mo ang effort wala nang makashoot diyan ng madami,” Ayo added. “Everytime kasi na binabanggit mo ‘yung effort sa basketball, it’s not so much on offense, sa depensa iyan.”

Now, with their season down to one final game, Ayo hopes that his team will have tons of motivation to close the series in their favor. It’s not about the Xs and Os anymore but it’s about wanting it more than the other.

“Sabi ko sa kanila noong alma mater namin [na] tingnan niyo ang crowd natin at tingnan niyo ang frustation ng mga mukha kasi iyon lang naman ang pinaghuhugotan namin eh: motivation.” Ayo quipped. “Sa amin, ginagawa namin ito for Letran and for the whole community.”

Game Three of this championship series will be tomorrow, 4:00 pm, at the Mall of Asia Arena.

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