MANILA, Philippines – Their last two losses have to feel unsettling for the Mapua Cardinals.
After erasing a 15-point lead entering the second half and turning that momentum into a 7-point advantage in the final quarter, the Atoy Co-coached team allowed Rey Nambatac and the Letran Knights to catch fire down the stretch and escape with an 80-77 on Friday, August 14, at the San Juan Arena.
Nambatac scored 14 of his 22 points in the final period to go with 10 rebounds and 5 steals, while Mark Cruz put up 16 points and 6 assists as the Knights won for the eighth time in 9 games.
Allwell Oraeme scored 23 points and pulled down 28 boards, but his statistics weren’t enough to let the Cardinals hold on for the win.
Mapua, who at one point was down by 21, used an 8-0 run to open the fourth quarter to take a 67-60 lead.
That’s when Nambatac caught fire, hitting 3 straight 3-pointers that helped put Letran back on top 72-70 with over 4 minutes left in the game.
A few minutes later, Nambatac hit another triple that extended his club’s edge to 77-73 with 2:20 to go.
“Nung nag-zone sila…ginawa ko, tumira lang ako nang tumira (When they went zone… what I did was to just keep shooting),” the third-year Knight said after the game.
After Oraeme nailed two charities to cut the deficit to two, Cruz made his presence felt by hitting a 3-pointer that put Letran ahead 80-75 with 1:50 remaining.
Stephen Que breathed some life into the Cardinals by nailing two charities to make the game a one-possession contest, but after Cruz missed a long attempt from downtown, Que committed a crucial traveling turnover that gave Letran the ball, up 3, with 9.8 seconds to go.
After Nambatac missed both free throws to seal the win, Nieles turned the ball over again by throwing an ill-advised cross-court pass that landed in the hands of a Letran player.
The Knights dribbled the clock out after to escape with the victory.
The Cardinals, who dropped to 4-5 this NCAA season, also received 15 points from Exeqiel Biteng. In their last game against JRU, Mapua blew an 18-point lead in the final 3 minutes.
Both Josan Nimes and CJ Isit missed the game due to injuries.
Letran (80) — Nambatac 22, Cruz 16, Balanza 11, Luib 10, Racal 9, Quinto 8, Apreku 2, Sollano 2, Calvo 0, Balagasay 0
Mapua (77) — Oraeme 23, Biteng 15, Que 13, Serrano 8, Nieles 7, Menina 6, Aguirre 3, Raflores 2, Stevens 0, Villasenor 0, Brana 0
Quarter scores: 25-21, 53-38, 60-59, 80-77 – Rappler.com
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