Letran College beat Arellano University 87-81 to assure itself of a Final Four playoff berth in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 91 men’s basketball tournament on Friday at The Arena in San Juan City.
Guard Mark Cruz scored 12 of his 20 points in the payoff period to erase the Chiefs’ nine-point lead at the end of the third quarter. It was the Knights’ 12th win against four losses.
Rey Nambatac led the Knights with 21 points plus 11 rebounds and two steals while Kevin Racal finished with 17 points and nine rebounds for the Knights. Jomari Sollano contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds plus two blocks also for Letran.
“We really need this win. I was inspired and motivated by the people who support us. I’m so thankful,” said Nambatac, who shot 6-of-13 in the field.
The victory allowed Letran to share the top spot with San Beda College that is also bearing a 12-4 win-loss record.
The Chiefs are now in a three-way logjam with the Cardinals and the Heavy Bombers at the no. 4 spot with all three teams carrying 10-6 win-loss records.
In the second game, Jose Rizal University (JRU) under coach Vergel Meneses overcame a sluggish first half to hold off University of Perpetual Help System Dalta 62-60 to keep its Final Four hope alive.
John Pontejos shot 16 of his 19 points in the third period while Bernabe Teodoro and John Grospe posted 12 points each for the Heavy Bombers. Center Abdoul Poutouochi contributed 12 points and 10 rebounds for JRU.
With the win, the Heavy Bombers’ win-loss record improved to 10-6.
Perpetual’s Gerald Dizon scored 15 points and Earl Scottie Thompson posted 12 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
The Altas’ win-loss record dropped to 11-5 to stay at No. 3 spot.
In the first game, reigning champion San Beda College under coach Jamike Jarin ended Mapua’s sixth game winning streak with a 75-65 win.
Pro-bound Arthur Dela Cruz finished with 17 points plus 14 rebounds and five assists while playmaker Baser Amer added 15 points and nine rebounds. It was the Red Lions 12th win in 16 games.
“Every game really counts, every win is important at this stage,” Jarin told reporters during a post-game interview. “That’s a big win for us because we have a good advantage now going to the Final Four.”
Pierre Tankoua and Ranbill Tomgco notched 12 points each while Ryusei Koga contributed 10 points for the Red Lions. San Beda is now assured of a Final Four playoff berth.
The Cardinals’ win-loss record dropped to 10-6.