SPEEDY point guard Mark Cruz came up with a sensational effort last night, carrying the Letran Knights to their sixth straight win with a 67-57 decision over the Arellano Chiefs in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
Cruz, the shortest man on the floor, unloaded a game-high 25 huge points capped by an acrobatic shot in the closing seconds that finally took the sting out of the Chiefs.
“This one is for Franz (Dysam),” said the 5-foot-6 Cruz. “I hope he gets well soon.”
Dysam was shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen inside his car with his girlfriend Joanne Sordan after Letran’s 61-53 victory over Lyceum Saturday last week.
Out of danger
Dysam was already declared out of danger despite sustaining six bullet wounds in different parts of the body but Sordan died after the shooting.
Brutish forward Kevin Racal added 14 points and rookie Rey Nambatac had nine for the unbeaten Knights, who kept the Chiefs near the bottom of the standings at 2-4.
Donald Gumaru, Prince Caperal and Nard Pinto conspired to chop down a 15-point Letran advantage halfway through the final period.
Gumaru delivered seven of his 10 points in that run, Caperal scored on a layup and Pinto converted two of three free throws from a Nambatac foul as the Chiefs pulled within, 57-63, in the closing minutes.
Scoreless for almost three minutes, the Knights then stopped the bleeding as Cruz hammered in the dagger with 36 seconds left.
“The entire team really felt bad after what happened to Franz. We tried to motivate each other by dedicating the game to him,” said Letran coach Caloy Garcia.
Ahead by just a point at halftime, the Knights gained control after Cruz and Nambatac led a scoring foray early in the third.
Cruz, who had five three-pointers, drilled a long three that gave the Knights a 51-47 lead midway in the quarter.
They came up with another scoring tear in the opening stages of the fourth with center Raymond Almazan, who finished with seven markers, joining forces with Cruz and Racal in the offensive end.
The Seniors scores:
LETRAN 67—Cruz 25, Racal 14, Nambatac 9, Almazan 7, Gabawan 4, Castro 2, Ruaya 2, Tambeling 2, Belorio 2, Po 0, Luib 0, Olotu 0, Buenaflor 0, Publico 0.
ARELLANO 57—Gumaru 10, Nicholls 9, Hernandez 8, Caperal 8, Pinto 7, Salcedo 5, Enriquez 4, Margallo 2, Agovida 2, Jalalon 2, Bangga 0, Cadavis 0.
Quarters: 22-16, 34-33, 53-42, 67-57