Letran holds off Lyceum in physical match

By Ivan Saldajeno

SAN JUAN, MM--Letran survived a highly-physical NCAA game to take an 83-78 win against Lyceum at the FIlOil Flying V Arena on Tuesday night.

The hard-fought showdown between Intramuros-based teams featured a bunch of fouls, an ejection, and King Knight Mark Cruz getting hit in the nose early on.

Cruz got hit by Allyn Malabanan during the second quarter of the game while his team tried to control its opponent's huge rally.

Cruz went to the locker room following the incident as Letran's medical team treated to his bloodied nose, triggering the possibility of a broken nose.

Lyceum took advantage of his absence and completed a 22-6 run to turn an early 4-16 deficit to a 26-22 lead en rout to a 35-34 halftime advantage.

Both teams went toe-to-toe in the third quarter and in the early moments of the fourth quarter, but the Knights opened a 15-4 run to take a 79-69 lead with 3:16 remaining.

The Pirates, who earlier in the third suffered a major loss as Joseph Gabayni was sent off for a disqualifying foul on Rey Nambatac, tried to stay close as they went on a 9-3 run to cut the lead to just four, 82-78, with 48.3 seconds left.

They tried to inch nearer as they made a defensive stop on the Knights, but Bong Quinto made what would be the game-saving steal against Jean Nguidjol, who bounced back by blocking Quinto's layup.

With Letran keeping the ball after the block, Cruz, who returned to finish the game, sealed the win with a free throw with 4.5 seconds left.

Kevin Racal made a follow-up to his Player of the Week-worthy performance on Friday as he tallied 19 points, seven rebounds, one assist, three blocks, and one steal for Letran, which matched its 7-0 start two years ago.

Nambatac, who carried the load while Cruz was getting treatment, also had 19 markers along with five boards, four dimes, and three swipes.

Cruz bucked off the injured nose and scored five points all in the fourth quarter. Coach Aldin Ayo told the press after the game that Cruz will undergo further checkup on Wednesday.

Nguidjol made 22 points, 12 rebounds, one assist, and two blocks for Lyceum, which fell to 1-6.

Box Scores:

Letran 83-Racal 19, Nambatac 19, Sollano 11, Quinto 9, Calvo 7, Luib 6, Cruz 5, Balanza 3, Balagasay 2, Publico 2, Apreku 0, Bernabe 0

Lyceum 78-Nguidjol 22, Ayaay 14, Sunga 11, Gabayni 9, Baltazar 6, Bulawan 4, Alanes 3, Mbida 3, Lacastesantos 2, Soliman 2, Lugo 2, Taladua 0, Malabanan 0

Quarterscores: 19-12, 34-35, 57-55, 83-78