Ortuoste, Yong shine as Stags nip Knights
MANILA - (UPDATE) Jon Ortuoste hit the go-ahead three, and rookie Rhanzelle Yong had a key steal in the dying seconds, as the San Sebastian Golden Stags carved out a thrilling 85-83 victory over the Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights Saturday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
In a back-and-forth final quarter marked by several lead changes, it was Ortuoste who gave the Stags the lead for good when he drilled a corner triple off a CJ Perez pass with 19.4 seconds to go, which ended a frenetic possession that saw San Sebastian nearly turn the ball over.
It seemed as though the Stags would run away with the victory when Kevin Racal mishandled a Kier Quinto pass in Letran's next possession, giving San Sebastian the ball with 17 seconds to go.
But Perez bobbled the ball on the way to the basket, forcing veteran guard Jovit dela Cruz to commit a foul that gave Letran the possession with 10.1 seconds left.
It was freshman Rhanzelle Yong who preserved the win for the Golden Stags, stealing the ball from Letran star Mark Cruz in the final possession, sending the San Sebastian side of the stadium into frenzy.
"It was a hell of a win, a hell of a game," said San Sebastian assistant coach Rodney Santos, who later revealed that he had challenged his players to try and win their first game of the season.
"Sabi ko, opening game, let's get this game. We gotta make a statement, not just for Letran, but for the rest of the teams that we're for real," he explained.
Ortuoste's triple capped a solid performance that saw him finish with 16 points built on 4-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc.
"Ang mindset ko lang talaga 'yung manalo kami," he said when asked to explain his game-winning shot. "Hindi ko rin ine-expect na papasok 'yung tira na 'yun."
Letran's Reneford Ruaya had given the Knights their last lead of the game 83-82, when he converted a lay-up off a Kevin Racal pass with 40 seconds to go.
But they failed to close out on Ortuoste in the next San Sebastian possession, giving the Golden Stag too much time and space to make his shot.
It seemed as though Letran would cruise to victory when they built a 10-point lead, 70-60, at the end of the third quarter, with Rey Nambatac giving the Knights a boost while Racal repeatedly drove inside for easy points.
The Stags quickly erased the lead, however, using a full court press and a 2-3 zone to fluster the Knights. They opened the final period on an 11-0 run, with Dela Cruz hitting a baseline jumper to give them a 71-70 lead with 5:45 to go.
"It's just 10 points. Fourth quarter, matagal pa," Santos said about the 10-point deficit. "Sabi ko nga sa kanila, take it one point at a time, one possession at a time. Hindi naman natin kailangan magmadali. 'Yun ang nangyari, dahan-dahan, nakabalik kami."
From that point on, it was a back-and-forth contest as the two teams exchanged baskets, with Perez dueling against Racal in the final two minutes.
It was the Stags who came up with the biggest basket and the biggest defensive stop of the game, however, to finally break a seven-game losing streak to Letran that dated back to Season 88.
Perez led the way for San Sebastian with 20 points, while Dela Cruz also added 15. The rookie Yong had nine points and nine rebounds.
Racal finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for a splendid all-around game for the Knights.
SAN SEBASTIAN 85 - Perez 20, Ortuoste 16, Dela Cruz 15, Yong 9, Fabian 7, Guinto 7, Calisaan 6, Aquino 3, Balucanag 2, Camasura 0, Pretta 0, Costelo 0.
LETRAN 83 - Racal 20, Ruaya 13, Cruz 13, Quinto 12, Nambatac 11, Gabawan 8, Calvo 3, Tambeling 3, Castro 0, Saldua 0, Apreku 0, Singontiko 0, Publico 0.
Quarter-scoring: 23-25, 38-41, 60-70, 85-83.