Knights rap Altas, gain semis incentive
MANILA, Philippines - Letran hacked out a vengeful 74-61 rout of first-round tormentor Perpetual Help to assure itself of a top two seeding and twice-to-beat advantage going to the Final Four of the 89th NCAA men’s basketball tournament yesterday at the San Juan Arena.
The Knights shifted to high gear in the second quarter, holding the Altas to nine points in the period while pouring in 23 of their own to rip the game apart en route to catching up with the idle defending champion San Beda Red Lions atop the field at 13-3.
Letran also avenged its 66-80 setback in the initial phase of the elims to the Altas, who fell to their third straight setback and 11-6 overall. The Las Piñas-based cagers remained at third spot despite the loss but bowed out of the battle for the Final Four.
“Ang goal namin is to get the twice-to-beat incentive kasi malaking bagay yan going into the Final Four (It’s really been our goal to get the twice-to-beat incentive in the Final Four),” said Knights coach Caloy Garcia.
“We just have to be healthy and to be consistent in offense and in defense (from here on in),” he added.
Kevin Racal piled up 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Letran, while Mark Cruz chipped in 11 markers. PBA-bound Raymond Almazan banged in 11 points and grabbed 15 boards before fouling out with 3:41 left.
The Altas actually started off strong as Harold Arboleda came out firing to power them to a 17-8 lead. But the Knights cranked it up since then – led by Racal, who silenced Perpetual’s top gun Juneric Baloria with a shackling defense.
A 15-0 run was all it took for Letran to turn the tables around and build a 42-29 margin at the break. The Knights had their biggest lead at 51-30 halfway through the third and were never threatened the rest of the way.
“Na-carry yung offense namin ng defense namin. After that run, we took that momentum and from there, hindi na naka-recover ang Perpetual (Our defense carried us and fueled our offense. We seized the momentum and Perpetual couldn’t recover from that),” said Garcia.
Arboleda led the way for the Altas with 21 points and seven rebounds, while Baloria wound up with 15 after being held scoreless in the first half.