The De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) Blazers were unprepared for the late heroics of Letran’s Rey “The Stingray” Nambatac, allowing the Collegio de San Juan de Letran (CSJL) Knights a successful defense of their home court, 92-78, in the Men’s basketball tournament of the 93rd season of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) yesterday at the CSJL Gym, Intramuros.
As early as the first quarter, both teams came out aggressive in the defensive ends, making bad shots and unforced errors the true nemesis for both teams. In the middle of the first quarter, the Blazers were able to implement their low-post split action, enabling Kendrix Belgica and rookie Unique Naboa baskets from both inside and outside the paint. Led by Naboa’s early 10 points, the Blazers were up by seven to end the quarter (21-14).
The jitters wore off the Knights in the second period as their offense turned out more composed. The middle penetration of Letran’s Bong Quinto gave Daryl Pascual the space needed to capitalize in the paint, which gave the home court team an advantage. Nambatac also shed his off-shooting woes and exploded for 15 points to secure Letran the lead to end the first half (43-38).
Entering the second half, veteran JJ Domingo and Clement Leutcheu led the Blazers to spark a 15-9 run—bringing the green and white back in the game and within close range (53-52). The period turned out to be a competitive dogfight keeping both teams at each other’s necks. Blazers Team Captain Gerard Castor boosted the morale of his teammates by powering his way through a sprained ankle, managing to help his team conclude the third quarter with a tie (66-66).
In the fourth quarter, Nambatac, with a season high of 31 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists, took control of the game and led the Knights to a 11-0 run (77-66); his fancy euro-step and a pull up three from the wing sent the packed crowd into a frenzy. Despite the Blazers answering with their own run, the team’s spark was snuffed out after Belgica suffered a shoulder injury late in the game. The Knights then took advantage of the absence of rim protection and ended the game with a 14-point lead (92-78).
Benilde’s loss to Letran now marks their fifth straight loss. The Taft squad will try to end their slump against the Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT) Cardinals (2-2) on Tuesday, August 8, at The Flying V Fil Oil Arena, San Juan.