By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE LETRAN KNIGHTS sustained their strong finish in the wind-up of the elimination round of Season 94 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association as they won their fifth straight game with a 79-61 victory over the San Sebastian Stags on Tuesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Came out in their element right from the get-go, the Knights dominated their rivals and never allowed the Stags to gain much headway in their fight-back attempts to book their fifth win in a row and improve to 12-4, still with a shot at a top-two finish in the eliminations that could merit them a twice-to-beat edge in the Final Four.
Letran opened the proceedings with a 6-0 blast and never looked back the rest of the first quarter to go on top 19-10.
The Stags tried to claw their way back in the second period but Bonbon Batiller and Larry Muyang would not allow the Knights to skip a beat, helping their team to a 29-15 lead midway into the frame.
Letran went on to lord it over San Sebastian after to take a commanding 42-25 advantage at the halftime break.
Despite the continued fending off of them by the Knights, the Stags remained resilient.
Behind RK Ilagan, Jesse Sumoda, and Michael Calisaan, San Sebastian managed to recover some ground in the third period.
When the quarter ended, the Stags were just seven points down, 59-52.
Sensing that they gave San Sebastian much real estate in the third canto, Letran came out with more purpose and aggressiveness to start the final frame.
Muyang and JP Calvo propelled the attack of the Knights that had them stretching their lead to 18 points, 72-54, with five minutes left in the game.
From there the Knights sped some more all the way to the win.
Muyang led Letran with 15 points and 13 rebounds as he was named player of the game.
Batiller also had 15 points while Nico Galvelo and Christian Fajarito had 14 and 11 points, respectively.
Calisaan paced San Sebastian (4-12) with 16 points with Ilagan finishing with 13 and Sumoda 12.
“This is a big win for us because we are now assured of a Final Four spot. But this is not where we want to be and we know we still have to work hard to go even deeper,” said Letran coach Jeff Napa following their victory.
“As far as the top two, we will let fate take its course if we are to notch it or not. From our end we will just be ready for whoever we face in the Final Four and where we end up,” he added as he spoke of their chances of finishing in the top two.
The Knights currently trail the defending champions San Beda Red Lions (14-1) and Lyceum Pirates (14-2) in the race to the top.