Three days after a stunning upset of San Sebastian, Letran almost fell prey to College of Saint Benilde’s own upset bid.
The Knights lost a commanding first half lead but made up for the collapse with a strong fourth quarter to defeat the Blazers, 72-60, in the 87th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at the FilOil-Flying V Arena.
The loss eliminated the Blazers from the race for the last final four spot in the tournament.
Kevin Alas, Jam Cortes and backup guard Mark Cruz led Letran’s pullaway in the payoff period to register their 14th win in 17 games.
Alas struggled from the field but still finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists, Cortes had 12 points and 14 boards and Cruz came off the bench to scatter 11 markers.
But the win failed to satisfy coach Louie Alas, whose squad lost a 15-3 lead at the start and even trailed 45-43 with barely two minutes left in the third.
“Parang nagiging pattern namin na maging inconsistent, lalo na sa third quarter and we have to fix that,” said Alas. “Ganun din kami nung Baste, maganda first half pero pag dating ng third quarter nag-iistruggle kami.”
The elder Alas is hoping that his boys would overcome their sluggish third quarter performance on Friday when they battle defending champion San Beda in a battle that will likely determine the No. 2 spot and a twice-to-beat edge in the Final Four.
Letran had a fiery start led by eight points in the first from Alas while VJ Espiritu hit all 10 points in the first half for a 28-19 lead at intermission.
But the Blazers came roaring back behind Paolo Taha, Carlo Lastimosa and Jonathan Grey to take the lead but failed to sustain their fiery form to suffer their fourth consecutive defeat.
CSB dropped to 5-11 and were eliminated from semis contention for the ninth consecutive season.
Taha had 18 points and 11 rebounds while Lastimosa and Grey registered 11 and 10 points, respectively.
LETRAN 72 – Alas K. 16, Cortes 12, Cruz 11, Espiritu 10, Belorio 7, Dysam 6, Racal 4, Alas J, 4, Almazan 2, Lituania 0, Mendoza 0, Gabriel 0.
ST BENILDE 60 – Taha 18, Lastimosa 11, Grey 10, Sinco 9, Tan 4, Carlos 4, Altamirano 2, McCoy 1, Deles 1, de la Paz 0, Pate 0.
Quarters: 16-5; 28-19; 47-45; 72-60.
» One-year deal to coach Letran not yet official, says Caloy Garcia
» Elasto Painters top assistant Caloy Garcia eyed as next Letran Knights coach
» Rain or Shine assistant Mike Buendia in running to take over Benilde coaching post