Jonash Dannug, Carl Argarin
Photo by Angela Davocol.
The Letran Knights paraded their monumental line-up in an opening defeat against the University of Perpetual Help Altas, 78-75. Edgar Charcos exploded for 27 points as the young Altas squad dealt the Knights their first setback of the season.
Aside from Charcos, another factor in the Knights’ loss was the subpar performances they got from skippers Bong Quinto and JP Calvo. The duo combined for 10-of-27 shooting in the entire game.
However, the duo answered to the team’s needs and showed their maturity in the following game against the San Sebastian College-Recoletos Golden Stags; limiting their shot selection to a combined 10-of-18 from the field.
From there, the Knights took the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) by storm; blasting a four-game winning streak including a big home win against the College of St. Benilde Blazers, 64-60, in this year’s edition of the NCAA on Tour.
The Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers and the Arellano University Chiefs were also victims of the Knights’ hot run which was led by Quinto who averaged 13.3 points and 7 rebounds and Larry Muyang who tallied 12 points and 7.8 rebounds in the four-game span.
However, after this fiery stretch, Quinto and Muyang along with other Knights were sent crashing back to the ground as they suffered back-to-back heart-wrenching losses against perennial powerhouses San Beda University Red Lions and Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates.
Jerrick Balanza was able to stick a put back with 3.8 remaining in the game to give Letran their first lead against San Beda, 69-67, in the fourth quarter. However, Donald Tankoua converted a reverse lay-up to send the game to overtime. From there, the Knights’ woes haunted them as they fall to the Red Lions, 80-76.
Meanwhile, in their game against the Pirates, Letran led by as much as 11 points in the final minutes of the game. Still, it wasn’t enough as they fall to Lyceum, 87-72.
After two heart-aching defeats, the Knights came back in a dominant fashion; winning two-straight lopsided games against the Mapua University Cardinals and the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals backed by Quinto’s back-to-back triple-double performances.
Quinto filled the stat sheet with 12 points 10 rebounds, and 11 assists against the Cardinals while dropping 11 points, 10 assists, and 11 rebounds over the Generals to cap-off their first round campaign with 6-3 slate.
All throughout the first round, the Knights, led by Muyang, Quinto, Ambohot, and Christian Fajarito has flexed their muscles and used their height to dominate their opponents inside the paint on both ends of the floor.
On defense, the Knights are currently at the third of the league standings in terms of rebounding as they averaged 47.3 rebounds per game in the first half of the season while allowing their opponents to only 69.8 points per game; placing second behind San Beda’s 63.6 in total points allowed.
In addition, the team also finished third in fast break points allowed with 8.6 points per game, behind San Beda and Perpetual, respectively.
Meanwhile, on offense, Quinto ranks number one in the league in total assists made by a player with 52; averaging 5.8 dimes per game, while JP Calvo placed eight with a total of 33 assists, collecting 3.7 per game. This feat puts Letran in the second place of total team assists with 18.6 per game.
Muyang, on the other hand, led the league in two-point field goals percentage with 62.1 percent, as he converted 41 of his shots in just 66 attempts.
The Knights currently rest at the third of the team points per game standings with 78 per game and second at starter points with 55 per outing.
Letran’s first three losses against Perpetual, San Beda, and Lyceum, proved that the Knights are having a tough time on closing out crucial games.
Also, in two of these three losses, the Knights failed to defend the three-point line a Perpetual shot 10-of-19 from the rainbow arc on 52.63 percent shooting while San Beda, on the other hand, drained 12 treys in their first round match-up.
The Knights, like any other big teams, had troubles defending the three-point arc; placing at the bottom third of the three-points field goals allowed with 31.8 percent.
In addition, the team also placed second to the last in bench points; scoring only 23 points per game. This means that players like Jeo Ambohot, Bonbon Batiller, and Fran Yu need to step-up their games, especially with Jerrick Balanza sidelined for the entirety of the season due to a brain tumor.
Ambohot’s numbers took a dip as he was relegated to a bench role and now averages 7.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in the first round. Still, if the Knights want to surge atop the standings, the Gilas cadet needs to play at a higher level.
As for Batiller, he showed a glimpse of his old self as he fired an NCAA career high 17 points in Letran’s blowout victory against EAC. However, before that, the former UE gunner is only averaging a subpar 6.6 points per game.
Lastly, team captain Bong Quinto needs to take care of the basketball as he averaged 4.1 turnovers per outing, which is the third worst in the league.
These losses, may be, are what the Knights needed to fuel up their second round quest. As Quinto said in an earlier interview: “Pagdating ng second round, kung sinong tumalo samin, ga-gantihan namin,” said the graduating forward.
Napa, on the other hand, shared the same sentiment with his leader and warns the top two teams, saying: “Di pa ‘rin sila nakaka-sigurado na top two na sila e, Panindigan nila ngayon yung top two nila. Ganun lang ka-simple,” stated Napa.
“Basta kami papakita namin na mas deserving kami ‘dun sa posisyon na yun,” he added.