By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE losing skid in National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 95 of the Letran Knights stopped at two after the Muralla-based team defeated the Arellano Chiefs, 97-84, in league action on Thursday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
Had their Final Four push stymied with their back-to-back losses previously, the Knights (10-6) got their thrust back on track, riding a stronger collective effort in the second half against the Chiefs (4-11) to book the skid-busting victory.
Bonbon Batiller got things rolling for Letran early in the opening quarter, helping his team to a 7-0 lead in the first two minutes.
But Arellano found its swing after, answering with a 14-8 run to come within a point, 15-14, by the four-minute mark.
The Knights though would finish the first quarter strong on the lead of big men Jeo Ambohot and Larry Muyang, outscoring the Chiefs, 13-7, to hold a 28-21 lead at the end of the frame.
Arellano was undeterred by the kind of finish it had in the previous quarter and came out aggressive at the start of the second period.
Kent Salado and Justin Arana took charge for the Chiefs as they went on a 9-4 blast to narrow the gap at 32-20 with 6:28 to go.
Letran managed to create some separation anew after, only to find Arellano continuing with its assault.
The Chiefs completed the fight back by seizing the lead, 49-46, at the half.
The teams went back and forth as the third frame unfurled, fighting to a 57-56 count with six minutes remaining and Letran on top.
The Knights took command the rest of the way to build a 14-point cushion, 80-66, heading into the final quarter.
Recognizing that Letran was creating distance too much for comfort, Arellano tried to make up for lost ground.
But the Knights were steady in fending off the efforts of their opponents as they continued to hold control of the contest, 89-77, with three minutes left in the game.
Arellano tried desperately to rally back after but no comeback was to be fashioned out as Letran was unrelenting in its attack on their way to the victory.
Batiller top-scored for the Knights with 18 points, followed by Muyang and Ambohot with 15 points each.
Allen Mina, Jerrick Balanza and Fran Yu also scored in double digits for Letran.
For Arellano it was Arana who led with 19 points with Salado and Alfren Gayosa adding 18 and 15 points, respectively.
Letran next plays on Oct. 11 against the Perpetual Help Altas while Arellano also takes the floor on said date versus the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals.