Rey Nambatac was having for himself a career-game in the NCAA 92 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
And still, Emilio Aguinaldo College was giving Colegio de San Juan de Letran all they could handle on Tuesday at the San Juan Arena.
Fortunately for the Knights, their defense stood strong in the last minute as they pulled off a thrilling 76-72 triumph over the Generals for their first win in the tournament.
Behind the fourth-year guard’s 21 points after just two quarters, the defending champions overcame a slow start and had an 11-point advantage heading into the final frame.
Proving that they are a different team, however, EAC kept coming and closed to within 72-74 with 61 ticks ok the clock. After the two teams traded defensive stops, the upstarts had a golden opportunity to tie the tally only to see Jorem Morada’s jumper clang off the rim.
Letran got the long rebound and JP Calvo scored on a breakaway layup to wrap up their first win in two tries. “A win is a win, although it’s an ugly win. Give credit sa boys, they refused to lose hanggang sa dulo,” coach Jeff Napa said about his maiden win in the NCAA.
Nambatac wound up with a career-high 33 points to go along with five rebounds while Bong Quinto followed-up his breakout game with 17 markers this time around. “Mr. Intangibles” Mcjour Luib then contributed two points, 10 rebounds, and six assists.
The Generals may have come up short, but they have proven that they aren’t to be taken lightly in the tournament. Cameroonian Hamadou Laminou bannered their effort with a 23-point, 18-rebound double-double.
LETRAN 76 - Nambatac 33, Quinto 17, Balanza 7, Sollano 6, Apreku 4, Calvo 4, Balagasay 2, Luib 2, Dela Pena, Ambohootn0, Bernabe 0, Sario 0, Vacaro 0.
EAC 72 - Hamadou 23, King 14, Munsayac 14, Morada 10, Onwubere 4, Pascua 3, Corilla 2, Diego 2, Aguas 0, Estacio 0, Guzman 0, Mendoza 0, Neri 0, Serrano 0.
QUARTER SCORES: 15-10, 41-34, 62-51, 76-72
Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.