Letran fended off a furious San Sebastian rally and eked out a 73-69 victory to secure one of the top 2 seeds and the twice-to-beat advantage in the semifinals in the NCAA Season 97 on Tuesday, April 26 at the La Salle Green Hills Gym.
The stellar middle quarters from the Knights created a cushion that went as big as 15 points which proved to be enough to weather a late Stags storm and stay perfect through eight games and move a win away from a possible elimination sweep.
Rhenz Abando unloaded 18 points and nine blocks while Louie Sangalang and Jeo Ambohot provided the support with 12 and 11 points respectively while also taking the task of putting the clamps on league-best scorer JM Calma on the defensive end.
“Kinabahan kami knowing na yung San Sebastian pupukpok yan kasi may chance sila ngayon so dapat maging ready kami,” said Abando as the Knights picked up a big win ahead of its much-anticipated clash against the San Beda Red Lions.
“Lagi namin iniisip simula nung una, San Beda talaga ‘yung papahirapan kami kaya dapat ready kami lagi and dapat pagdating ng game na iyon mas focus kami kaysa sa kanila,” he added.
Calma paced the Stags with 22 points but lacked support as no other player breached the double-digit mark in scoring.
San Sebastian finished the elimination on a 3-6 record and was already out-of-contention even if it ended up tied with Arellano and either Emilio Aguinaldo College or Perpetual Help due to its inferior quotient.
The Knights were poised to pull away in the game after a blistering second quarter where they controlled the tempo, limiting San Sebastian to just 10 points while exploding for 20 markers to take an eight-point lead at the half, 32-24.
Letran continued to roll after the break, erecting a pair of 15-point leads – first at 53-38 late in the third after an Abando layup and then at 63-48 after an Ambohot short stab early in the final frame.
Fighting for their dear tournament lives, Calma, Arjan Dela Cruz and Ken Villapando conspired in a last-ditch 14-3 run to come within three, 72-69 with only nine second remaining in the game. The stags though failed to complete a stop in the last possession as the time expired.
LETRAN 73 — Abando 18, Sangalang 12, Ambohot 11, Paraiso 10, Caralipio 6, Olivario 5, Javillonar 4, Mina 4, Reyson 3, Yu 0, Fajarito 0.
SAN SEBASTIAN 69 — Calma 22, Abarquez 9, Altamirano 8, Villapando 7, Are 6, Desoyo 5, Dela Cruz 5, Cosari 4, Shanoda 2, Calahat 1, Concha 0, Felebrico 0, Loristo 0, Re. Gabat 0.
Quarters: 12-14, 32-24, 55-44, 73-69.
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