The Letran Knights continue to be a puzzle that has yet to be solved.
The Colegio de San Juan de Letran (CSJL) Knights maintained their unblemished record in the 91st season of the NCAA in slaying another contender, the Arellano University (AU) Chiefs, in a 77-68 win early Friday evening at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan City.
The Chiefs, after going up in the early goings of the opening quarter, could not find any answer to the pressure defense employed by the Knights. Letran forced Arellano to 14 first half turnovers, majority coming from clogging the passing lane that resulted to easy transition points. In addition, the “big men” of the Knights crashed the boards hard as Felix Apreku and Jomari Sollano, together with guard Rey Nambatac, outrebounded the frontline of the Chiefs 19-16.
On offense, co-captain Kevin Racal, even in playing out of position at the four spot, was all over the floor in scoring from both the outside (two three pointers) and the inside as he scored 11 points in the first half. Rey Nambatac also made up for the off shooting night of Mark Cruz in scoring eight points. For the Chiefs, Smart Ambassador Jiovanni Jalalon was limited to just four points in and was forced to commit four turnovers. Big man Julius Cadavis paced the Chiefs in the first half with seven points in just three minutes of action as the Knights led by ten, 42-32, after the first half.
In the third canto, the Legarda Street-squad blasted a quick 8-0 run as Allen Enriquez pounded the paint and Donald Gumaru converted on jumpers. The run was stopped as Jomari Sollano converted on from the inside coming from a give-and-go play with Mcjour Luib. The Knights continued to crash the boards as the Chiefs could not box out the active rebounders of Letran all throughout the quarter. In addition, Arellano was ajlready in the penalty at the 6:28 mark of the quarter resulting to ten free throw attempts by the league leading squad. Kevin Racal also continued his splendid performance in scoring four of the team’s last nine points to give the Knights an 14 point lead, 62-48, to enter the final quarter.
“The Canadian Gunslinger” Zachary Nicholls tried to stage an Arellano comeback in scoring five straight points to open the fourth. The run was capped with a huge three pointer to cut the lead to just nine. After a quick timeout by coach Aldin Ayo, Jerrick Balanza was able to convert on free throws while, on the defensive end, a three point attempt by Nicholls was blocked by Balanza that led to an easy Racal basket. Nicholls was able to respond with another three pointer but a costly foul by Cadavis on Nambata, who was attempting a three pointer, negated the three pointer. After another three pointr by Nicholls at the 2:02 mark that cut the lead to just six, 74-68, Mark Cruz, who was just 1/16 from the field, converted on a clutch three pointer at the top of the key to ice the game. Free throws by Cruz at the closing seconds gave Letran a 77-68 win to keep its perfect record intact.
“It’s getting tougher and tougher,” admitted Letran coach Aldin Ayo after the game. “I thought that San Beda and Perpetual are tough but Arellano was the toughest since their point guard [Jio Jalalon] can match-up with our point guard.” He added that there was an added emphasis on halfcourt execution during their practices for this game.
Kevin Racal played his best game of the season in scoring a season-high 24 points on 9/21 shooting and added five rebounds. Smart Elite ambassador Rey Nambatac scored 13 points with nine coming from the free throw line and was active on the board in grabbing ten. For the Arellano Chiefs, Zachary Nicholls had 14 points but was just 5/17 from the field. Smart Elite Ambassador Jio Jalalon, who was crowded with double teams all throughout the game, had 10 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals but committed five turnovers.
As a team, the Knights shot a poor 33% from the field but more than made up for it in shooting 36 free throw attempts and converting on 27. Arellano also committed a season high 39 fouls in the game.
The Letran Knights [6-0] will face the Lyceum Pirates [1-5] on Tuesday, August 4 at 4:00pm while the Arellano Chiefs [4-2] looks to bounce back against the UPHSD Altas [4-2] on Thursday, August 6 at 4:00pm.
CSJL (77) – Racal 24, Nambatac 13, Sollano 12, Cruz 9, Luib 5, Apreku 4, Balanza 4, Publico 4, Quinto 4, Quinto 2, Calvo 0.
AU (68) – Nicholls 14, Cadavis 12, Jalalon 10, Holts 10, Enriquez 8, Gumaru 5, Salado 5, Bangga 4, Ongolo-ongolo 0, Ortega 0, De Guzman 0, Zamora 0, Tano 0.
Quarterscores: 21-16, 42-32, 62-48, 77-68.