It was supposed to be another victory for streaking Letran as they took on the lowly Perpetual Help squad in the 87th NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
But alas, the result proved to be otherwise.
The cellar-dwelling but hardworking Altas caught the Knights by surprise as they leaned on a big second half to stun favored Letran, 68-53, at the FilOil-Flying V Arena.
Jet Vidal and Anthony Paulino led a late push in the third quarter to turn a tight battle for three-and-a-half quarters into a one-sided victory for the underdogs from Las Pinas.
It was just the fourth win of the season for the Altas with just one game left in its 18-game elimination round schedule, a slate that coach Jimwell Gican didn’t expect when he took over the reigns following Boris Aldeguer’s sudden resignation right before the season began.
“Talagang hindi namin inasahan ito dahil nga kulang kulang kami sa simula at madami pang injuries,” said Gican, whose team was also hampered by eligibility problems of Paul Nuillan and Marlon Gomez.
It was Perpetual’s first win over Letran after 14 games. The last time they beat the Knights was on July 23, 2004 when they hacked out a 71-68 win led by Noy Javier, Khiel Misa and Fritz Bauzon.
That year, Perpetual made it to the finals but was swept by the Gabby Espinas and Jason Castro-led Philippine Christian University Dolphins.
Vidal, the perimeter-oriented shooter, finished with 18 points including 11 in the third when he sparked a late pullaway by the Altas.
Joined by Anthony Paulino, UPHSD turned a 44-43 deficit into a 53-44 lead after scoring 10 straight points. Vidal capped off that run with a three-pointer with under a minute left to the delight of a small Perpetual faithful.
The lead would stay on as Letran struggled offensively with turnovers even as Chris Elopre and Earl Thompson unloaded a pair of triples to push the lead to 62-48 with under three minutes remaining.
“Sa simula’t sapul ang gameplan namin is wag aatras sa pisikal na laro ng Letran basta’t laban kung laban lang kami,” said Gican.
Undersized big man Justine Alano had 10 points and six boards and Elopre also hit 10 points aside from dishing out three assists.
Paulino, the ex-FEU high school standout, had eight points including five in the third.
VJ Espiritu led Letran with 14 points off 4-of-10 triples while Jam Cortes, back from a one-game suspension, added 11 points and 11 boards.
Kevin Alas struggled with nine points, eight rebounds, two assists and five turnovers to highlight a lousy 33-percent shooting clip and 23-turnover showing by the Knights.
“We came out very flat,” said Letran coach Louie Alas.
The Knights dropped to third place with a 12-3 record after seeing their eight-game winning streak snapped.
PERPETUAL 68 – Vidal 18, Alano 10, Elopre 10, Paulino 8, Allen 7, Thompson 5, Sumera 5, Jolangcob 3, Asuncion 2, Arboleda 0, Sison 0.
LETRAN 53 – Espiritu 14, Cortes 11, Alas K. 9, Dysam 5, Almazan 4, Belorio 4, Racal 3, Alas J. 2, Mendoza 1, Cruz 0, Gabawan 0.
Quarters: 16-17; 33-28; 53-44; 68-53.
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