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Knights seek third win versus Blazers

By Jerome Lagunzad

Games Today
(Letran Gym)
2 p.m. – Letran vs St. Benilde (J)
4 p.m. – Letran vs St. Benilde (S)

After stopping a two-game skid the last time out, Letran tries to buck another trend in the NCAA seniors basketball tournament today when the Knights host the free-falling St. Benilde Blazers at their own floor in Intramuros, Manila.

Tip off is at 4 p.m., with Letran out to make a big follow-up to its 82-75 victory over fellow Final Four contender Arellano U last Tuesday and keep itself within striking distance of early pacesetters Lyceum (5-0) and defending champion San Beda (4-1).

Up against a Blazers side that’s reeling from three straight losses, the last a 43-point whipping dealt by the surging Pirates two days ago, Letran coach Jeff Napa feels the Knights still have no reason to take them lightly.

And he has good reasons to say so. Arellano U and Mapua, despite enjoying home court advantages in the first two editions of the “NCAA on Tour,” fell prey to season host San Sebastian and Perpetual Help, respectively.

“Hindi naman namin iniisip na advantage ‘yun. Disadvantage pa nga kasi dalawang talo na ‘yung home teams,” said Napa.

“But it’s another motivation for us. Kailangan namin i-prove na hindi jinx ‘yung (pagiging) home team. Kaya kailangan namin mag-trabaho.”

The Knights, proving they’re not just about star guard Rey Nambatac, drew impressive numbers from a pair of transferees – former Arellano big man Jeo Ambohot and ex-Lyceum guard Jeremiah Taladua – in their morale-boosting win over the Chiefs.

The 6-foot-6 Ambohot, a former volleyball player back in high school in Compostela Valley, proved a handful against his former teammates as he banged in 15 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks while the 22-year-old Taladua collected 13 markers and 11 boards, leaving Napa pleased no end.

“It’s more on involving the other players. Just giving them confidence that they’re part of the team, na kahit anong mangyari, pwede ko sila bunutin anytime,” he said.

Napa is hoping the other veteran Knights, led by Bong Quinto, Jerrick Balanza and JP Calvo, will deliver anew as they try to foil the Blazers’ upset bid.

“Hindi pwedeng biruin ‘yung Benilde kahit nasa baba sila. I have so much respect on them kasi iba ‘yung pride ng mga ‘yan,” he said. “Hindi naman kami papayag (na matalo). Magta-trabaho talaga kami lalo’t sa bahay namin maglalaro. We will give our best.”