Diminutive Mark Cruz put up a gigantic performance leading the Letran Knights to a 74-57 win over the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 91 men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City on Friday.
The 5’5 point guard Cruz posted eight three-point shots in the entire game. He scored 17 of his 26 points in the final quarter plus five rebounds and five assists. The victory allowed Knights to share the lead with reigning champion San Beda. Both teams are carrying identical 10-2 win-loss records.
“Lyceum played a stifling zone defense against us but we always practice our shooting,” said Letran coach Aldin Ayo. “We prepared in this game and I expect anyone from my team to step up every time they zone us. It was just that Mark [Cruz] stepped up in this game.”
Cruz, who was picked by Star Hotshots in the third round of the recent Philippine Basketball Association rookie draft, notched five triples in the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, the Pirates snatched the lead 50-49 after a big run capped by Wilson Baltazar’s two free throws.
But Cruz came to the rescue posting 14 consecutive points to seal the team’s victory at the 2:43 mark. The Knights were never threatened from that point onward.
Pro-bound Kevin Racal finished with 19 points; Jomari Sollano added 10 and Rey Nambatac nine points.
Cameroonian Victor Nguidjol led the Pirates with 20 points and 15 rebounds. The Pirates’ win-loss record now dropped to 3-9.
In the second game, the College of Saint Benilde routed the Emilio Aguinaldo College 81-57 for its third win against nine losses.
“We are not discouraged because of the win-loss record. We are here to improve our game,” said Saint Benilde coach Gabby Velasco.
In the third game, the Arellano University Chiefs relied on the third triple-double performance of Jiovani Jalalon to beat the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas, 84-77, in overtime.
Jalalon scored 32 points plus 15 assists and 10 rebounds for the Chiefs, whose win-loss record improved to 8-4.
The Altas’ win-loss record dropped to 8-4.
In the high school division, Lyceum whipped Letran, 91-83, to improve its record to 9-3 while Emilio Aguinaldo beat La Salle-Greenhills 75-68 to post its sixth win after 12 games.