Letran outlasts UST in OT for first FilOil win


Letran’s Jerrick Balanza fire a jumper against UST. Richard Esguerra, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines – Colegio de San Juan de Letran squandered a huge fourth-quarter lead but recovered in overtime to power past University of Santo Tomas (UST), 89-81, and register its first win of the FilOil Flying V Preseason Tournament on Wednesday.

The Knights were in control for most of the game, and led 68-51 with 8:28 to go in the fourth quarter before the Growling Tigers staged a massive comeback.

Pouncing on Letran’s inability to defend without fouling, the Tigers trimmed the deficit through free throws before Jordan Sta. Ana, Christian Garcia, and Marvin Lee conspired in a fiery wind-up to make it a nip-and-tuck game in the final two minutes.

The three players anchored a stunning 16-2 run that turned a 59-72 deficit into a 75-74 advantage with just 59.4 seconds to go. It was Lee who drained the go-ahead shot, knocking down a three-pointer with just under a minute left.

Letran blew chances to regain the advantage when Bong Quinto and Jeo Ambohot bricked close-range shots, but Jerrick Balanza was able to draw a foul on Garcia for what could be the game-winning free throws. Unfortunately, the veteran managed only one of two shots, tying the game at 75 with eight seconds left.

With the chance to win in regulation, UST worked the ball to Lee, but the guard’s triple hit the front of the rim as time expired.

The Knights went on to dominate the extension, with Quinto and Balanza helping Letran take an 82-76 lead. Three players eventually fouled out for Letran, but the Tigers were unable to take advantage.

“‘Yung character ng team na ito, they refused to lose naman,” said Letran coach Jeff Napa. “Siguro, nagsawa na rin kami sa puro talo ngayong FilOil. Good thing, at least maganda ang stretch namin ngayon, makabwelo naman kami.”

It was only Letran’s first win in four games, and it came on the same day that leading scorer Rey Nambatac was declared out for the rest of the preseason due to a knee injury.

With Nambatac out, it was Balanza who carried the load for Letran as he scored 24 points. Quinto added 20 points and 15 rebounds, while JP Calvo tallied 10 points and eight assists in the game.

“Credit to the boys, ‘yung character ng team ay unti-unting lumalabas,” said Napa. “Despite na we’re nursing some injuries, ‘yung iba naman ang nagi-step up.”

The Growling Tigers were listless for most of the game before their fourth-quarter surge, which was partly sparked by a succession of fouls on big man Steve Akomo.

Akomo wound up with 23 points and 15 boards, while Garcia had 17 points before fouling out in overtime. Lee had 16 points, three assists, and two steals.

UST dropped to 1-5 in the preseason tilt.

The scores:

LETRAN 89 – Balanza 24, Quinto 20, Calvo 10, Vacaro 10, Ambohot 9, Taladua 8, Caralipio 4, Balagasay 2, Bernabe 2, Pamulaklakin 0, Gedaria 0, Pascual 0, Mandreza 0

UST 81 – Akomo 23, Garcia 17, Lee 16, Huang 9, Sta. Ana 7, Basibas 4, Caunan 4, Escalambre 1, De Guzman 0, Faundo 0, Macasaet 0, Lorenzana 0

Quarter scores: 23-22, 35-33, 64-51, 75-75, 89-81 (OT)

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