Even if the Letran Knights were facing the lowly Saint Benilde Blazers in their home floor, the odds did not favor the hosts entering the game as the Arellano Chiefs and the Mapua Cardinals were stunned by visiting teams San Sebastian Stags and the Perpetual Altas respectively.
And for the first 11 minutes of the game, it seemed that the home court curse would do a hat-trick as an inspired Blazers squad, who are coming off a 43-point demolition by the Lyceum Pirates, were off to shock the hosts.
“May halong gigil yung laro namin kanina,” recalled graduating senior Rey Nambatac. “Nung first half may halong gigil talaga.”
Besides not wanting to let down the Letranites that filled up the Letran Gym, a pep talk with Letran legend Willie Miller, one of the pillars of the 1998 Knights team, pushed the 23-year-old combo guard.
“Mino-motivate niya ako. Maging mas aggressive ka pa dapat sabi niya sa akin kasi sa akin daw nagsisimula yung tempo ng game,” Nambatac said.
“So yun sinunod ko lang yung sinabi ni Willie Miller and sinasabi ni coach [Jeff Napa] sa akin, na-iinvolve lahat ng teammates ko.”
With the game knotted at 66-all entering the final frame, Nambatac made sure to carry the Knights on his back, scoring eight of his season-high 31 points in the final frame. And it resulted to a 92-78 win for the Knights to even their slate at 3-3.
“Given naman yan. Si Rey Nambatac hindi mo na pwede palitan apelyido niyan,” said Napa as Nambatac had 11 rebounds, five assists, and two steals as well.
“Nung nag stick na kami sa sistema ni coach, dun na kami umarangkada. Siguro dahil na rin sa teamamtes ko na willing na rin mag step up,” Nambatac, trying to deflect credit to his teammates, added.
And winning in front of his classmates, teachers, and friends is something that Nambatac will cherish for the rest of his life.
“Sobrang saya kasi lalo na last year ko na dito sa Letran, last year ko na sa NCAA, so parang magandang opportunity sa akin ‘to dahil bago ako grumaduate may dala dala akong experience na ganito kasaya.”
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