Letran preserved its perfect record after dealing Jose Rizal University an 81-59 drubbing to seize the solo lead of the standings and inch closer to a Final Four berth in the NCAA Season 97 at the La Salle Green Hills Gym on Saturday, April 23.
After struggling in the opening frame, the Knights found their offensive groove in the second quarter to pull away for good and remain the only undefeated team so far this season following San Beda Red Lions’ upset loss at the hands of the Mapua Cardinals in the game prior.
Brent Paraiso was the sparkplug of the wire-to-wire win, finishing with 12 points built on three triples he nailed during that telling run in the second quarter. Jeo Ambohot posted a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Letran now only needs to win one of its last two games – first against San Sebastian before the rematch of the Season 95 finals against San Beda in the final day of the eliminations – to secure an outright semifinal berth.
“Talagang we’re here to play and win. Ayaw namin na umabot pa na mabigyan sila ng confidence lalo na sa mga previous games kami yung kinocontrol ng tempo. ‘Yun yung tall order namin sa mga players namin,” said head coach Bonnie Tan.
Ambohot triggered the run with an inside basket before Paraiso nailed a triple to take a 22-15 advantage. Dionisio answered with a layup for JRU but Paolo Javillonar, Ambohot and nailed consecutive baskets before Paraiso drilled back-to-back triples to cap the 18-4 finisher in the first half.
The Knights remained hot in the next two quarters, stretching the lead to 20, 59-39, at the end of the third quarter and to 33, 72-69, after an Abando two handed slam early in the final frame.
Tan also had the luxury of resting his starters in the final frame as he emptied his bench and still built the biggest lead at 34, 77-43, after a Kyle Tolentino triple.
CJ Gonzales trey at the 4:06 mark of the final frame ended the long drought for the Heavy Bombers who struggled without a field goal since the layup from Bongay with 1:54 left in the third frame.
Hommer Macatangay and Jason Celiz finished with 11 points apiece but were not enough as the Heavy Bombers now out of contention for the play-in spot. They will try to end their season on a winning note when it takes on Arellano as their final assignment.
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