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Streak-busters: EAC surprises Letran to end Knights’ winning run

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We have an upset and there will be Final Four games.

The Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) Generals grind it out in the second half to power themselves to a 83-69 win over to give the Colegio de San Juan de Letran (CSJL) Knights its first loss in the 91st season of the NCAA at the FilOil Arena on Friday afternoon.

Displaying their patented defense that was seen in their unblemished start to the season, Letran forced EAC to commit two turnovers in the opening minute that led to a 7-2 start for the Knights. However, the frontcourt bigs of the Generals were active with their strong interior defense that led to early advantage for their team rebounding-wise. The Generals perimeter attempts would not fall down specifically their three-point attempts and despite only shooting a poor ⅛ clip from the free throw stripe in the first, a 7-0 spurt late enabled them to take the lead after 10 minutes of action.

Enjerico Diego scored the second quarter’s opening bucket to extend his team’s lead to its highest at seven. However, the top-seeded Letran squad answered with a fast 10-0 run in the next three minutes including two triples by Kevin Racal as their suffocating defense played another huge part in their second quarter run.

After being silent during the stretch, Jorem Morada drilled in a trey to stop the bleeding but that was the last basket for EAC before Letran poured another 10-point swing in their favor, to distance themselves with triples firing from multiple spots. By halftime, the Knights held at 36-28 and limiting the Generals to 10 points in the second.

Defense started to take place for the Generals as they forced the Knights to several tough attempts in the second half. Rey Nambatac scored Letran’s first basket after three minutes of being scoreless. On the other end, the bigs kept on pounding the rock for EAC as Hamadou Laminou inked in eight of his team’s first 11 points to keep the score a close one while Letran struggled in finding their mark offensively.

Countering the Knights’ defense with their own, the trap defense made by EAC enabled them three straight layups in the last minutes of the third frame including a lead-giving one from Francis Munsayac that propelled them to take the lead for good.

With the pace of the game favoring their squad, the Generals held their furious momentous run to extend their advantage against the stunned Letran team who blew shot after shot in favor of EAC. Sidney Onwubere made timely shots and rebounds while Munsayac scored from way downtown to give them a 69-60 lead.

After ensuing plays, Letran was still blank from the perimeter while Jose Morada banked in a three-point play from with exactly three minutes to go plus a foul to extend their lead to a baker’s dozen. With necessary stops and free throws to top it off, the Generals completed the upset while notching their second win of the season and also avoiding to join Lyceum at the bottom of the standings.

“Yung game it looks so easy, pero hard work ang puhunan ng mga bata,” EAC head coach Andy de Guzman said after the game. “I told the boys yesterday that they play doubly hard, but because it’s Letran; they made it triple, triple hard! Pakita natin kung ano ang character ng team na ito.”

In addition, when they were up 13 with two minutes to go in the game, the coach told his team not to relax. “Don’t play loose because they still have a chance to come back.”

Finally, even in being down 0-5, coach Andy de Guzman said that the team’s morale was down. “I just kept on motivating them, tapos yung against San Sebastian, maganda ang naging resulta nun para sa team.”

Cameroonian student-athlete Laminou Hamidou grabbed a huge double-double with 20 points and 24 rebounds. Both Remy Morada and Sidney Onwubere added 18 points apiece with Morada also grabbing 10 boards and three assists. Smart Elite ambassador Francis Munsayac had eight points, six rebounds and three assists. The Letran Knights were paced by Kevin Racal’s 18 points but was just 7/22 from the field. Rey Nambatac had 11 points but also shot poorly as he shot just 3/14 from the field.

As a team, Letran shot a horrendous 31% from the field and was greatly outrebounded 67-42. This led to 17 second-chance points for the Generals.

EAC improved to a 2-5 slate while Letran barges into the losing column with their first defeat in eight games. The Generals will look to sustain their hot run against the LPU Pirates on Thursday, August 13 at 2:00pm while the Letran Knights will finish off their first round campaign on Friday, August 14 against the Mapua Cardinals at 12nn.

The Scores:

EAC (83) – Hamadou 20, Morada 18, Onwubere 18, Munsayac 7, Mejos 6, Diego 6, Pascua 3, Bonleon 2, Corilla 2, Mallari 1, Pascual 0

CSJL (69) – Racal 18, Cruz 16, Nambatac 11, Sollano 6, Apreku 4, Balanza 4, Calvo 3, Luib 3, Balagaysay 2, Publico 2

Quarters: 18-13, 28-36, 52-50, 83-69.

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