NCAA: Letran goes 7-0 after whipping Mapua; coach downplays featBy Mark Giongco
MANILA, Philippines — Letran showed why it’s the best team right now as it dominated Mapua from the get-go en route to an 87-68 rout in the NCAA Season 89 men’s basketball tournament Monday at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
Point guard Mark Cruz set the tone, scoring eight of his game high 22 points in the opening quarter where the Knights ran away early and never looked back to keep their record clean after seven games.
“Ang kagandahan kasi dito mahaba-haba pa next game namin. We wanted to get as much wins as possible before we go on a break. Surprisingly we’re 7-0. Our last two games, we’re starting to pick up,” said Letran coach Caloy Garcia as his squad head into a long layoff atop the standings with a game ahead second-running San Beda.
“Hats off to the players. We’re moving the ball a lot more now. We’re starting to share the ball. I think this is our best offensive game,” added Garcia.
Cruz, roughly at five-foot-five also collected 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals with no turnovers in 29 minutes of play.
“We still have to win the championship, that’s the goal. Seven wins is still seven wins. We still have 11 more games. Anything can happen. It’s just nice to be ahead right now kasi yung mga nasa babang teams nasa kanila na yung pressure,” said Garcia, who added that he will give his players a well-deserved two days off to enjoy what has been an impressive run so far.
Aside from Cruz, the Knights also drew a solid outing from Raymond Almazan and Jonathan Belorio.
Almazan made his presence felt both ends of the floor with 13 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks while Belorio, who is just in his fourth game back due to a right wrist injury, is beginning to find his form with 12 points, six rebounds and one block.
“Sabi lang ni coach kumpiyansa lang. Hindi na ako nag-hehesitate tumira. Medyo inaalalayan ko pa kasi sabi ng doktor baka isang hampas lang bumalik injury ko,” said Belorio.
“Binibigyan ako ng opportunity ng teammates ko and coaching staff. Ang maganda sa amin nagbibigayan kami sa court,” said lanky center Almazan.
The Cardinals, who succumbed to their fifth straight setback for a lowly 1-6 mark, never led and didn’t even had a chance to pull even.
Mapua cut the deficit to 13 points before Cruz put the game out of reach with a couple of treys and Almazan providing the exclamation point off a two-handed dunk, 84-63.
The league will resume on August 12 to pave way for the country’s men’s basketball team competing in the Fiba Asia Championship from August 1 to 11.
This is the best start for the Knights since going 11-0 back in 2005 when they also won their last championship.