MANILA, Philippines — Letran bucked the absence of main man Raymond Almazan and got back on winning track after two setbacks by clipping winless Lyceum, 77-72, Friday at the 2013 Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup.
After struggling in the first two quarters, the Knights took a 56-50 lead at the end of third which they would not relinquish, but still had to survive a late rally by the Pirates to get their fourth win.
The Pirates took advantage of Almazan’s absence to pound the ball inside and take an early 10-point lead.
“Nangangapa kami nung una tapos gumana yung pressure defense ng [We were groping at first and then the pressure defense of] Lyceum [kicked in],” said Knights point guard Mark Cruz who was scoreless in the first half but finished with seven.
But Letran got its act together on time, pushing the gap as far as 14 points, 70-56, on a putback by rising star Rey Nambatac with 4:51 to play.
Lyceum, again, came roaring back and trimmed the lead to 72-76 with 18 seconds left.
But time ran out on the Pirates as JC Po added a free throw to set the final score and give the Knights’ flatlining quarterfinals’ bid some life.
For Letran to advance, it first has to defeat La Salle, which touts a 5-0 card in group B, and hope that neither University of the East nor University of Santo Tomas register five wins.
Rey Nambatac led Letran with 16 points while Luib and Dysam chipped in 11 and 10 points respectively. Despite the absence of Almazan, the Knights outrebounded the Pirates, 54-50.
“I challenged the boys,” said Letran head coach Caloy Garcia. “Because things like this (the absence of Almazan) can happen in the NCAA. It’s a good thing that they responded.”
Lyceum, winless at 0-4, meanwhile, was led by Dexter Zamora who finished with a game high 17 points while Vergel Evangelista added 13. Tirso Lesmoras chipped in 10 markers.
Letran 77 – Nambatac 16, Luib 11, Dysam 10, Publico 9, Cruz 7, Oluto 6, Ruaya 5, Gabawan 5, Tambeling 3, Castro 3, Almario 1, Po 1, Requero 0.
Lyceum 72 – Zamora 17, Evangelista 13, Lesmoras 10, Azores 9, Taladua 6, Lacastesantos 6, Ko 6, Mendoza 4, Soliman 1, Francisco 0, Garcia 0, Edora 0.
Quarters: 16-22, 32-24, 56-50, 77-72.