By Jerome Lagunzad
Games Today (Mall of Asia Arena)
1 p.m. – San Sebastian vs St. Benilde (Jrs.)
3:30 p.m. – San Sebastian vs Letran (Srs.)
Top guard Rey Nambatac admits he and his Letran teammates endured sleepless nights after suffering a 31-point beating to host San Sebastian nearly a month ago.
Today, Nambatac and the rest of the Knights hope to slay the ghost – and even more – when they square off anew with the Golden Stags for the fourth and final playoff spot in the 93rd NCAA seniors basketball tournament.
“Go all out,” was how Letran coach Jeff Napa summed up his team’s battle cry in the 3:30 p.m. encounter with the well-rested San Sebastian side that’s expected to draw a sizeable crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Momentum should be on the side of the Knights since they are coming off a thrilling 70-68 victory in an earlier do-or-die showdown with the Arellano Chiefs last Friday, thanks to lanky center Jeo Ambohot’s putback with 3.3 seconds to play.
Napa, however, refused to be swayed, aware that the Knights are in for another tough grind against the Golden Stags, who will come with with fresh legs following a five-day respite plus a psychological edge after a 95-64 victory in their proviso meeting last Sept. 26.
“Marami pa kaming kailangan ayusin dahil may mga lapses pa rin kami. Dapat maging disciplined kami, especially on playing defense,” stressed Napa, hoping the Knights won’t repeat a lousy defensive performance that allowed the Golden Stags to hit 16 triples the last time out.
While Letran is eager to make a return trip to the semis after missing it last year, San Sebastain is equally determined to do such for the first time in the last four years since a previous Golden Stags squad, then handled by current Lyceum coach Topex Robinson, reached the playoffs back in 2013.
“It doesn’t matter kung sino man ang kalaban namin. What matters is being there,” said San Sebastian’s second-year coach Egay Macaraya. “I guess the boys continue to learn how to play hard every game. Hopefully, magtuluy-tuloy para makapasok makapag-advance kami.”
All eyes should be on the pro-bound Nambatac, who is raring to redeem himself after hardly making his presence felt with just six points during the Knights’ numbing loss to the Golden Stags.
“Talagang may unfinished business pa ako sa Letran. Gusto ko rin tulungan ‘yung team na makabawi sa Baste kasi hindi namin talaga makalimutan ‘yung matinding pagkatalo namin sa kanila,” he admitted.