When leaders John Quinto and JP Calvo struggled, Letran got help from the bench and downed Emilio Aguinaldo College, 91-82, yesterday to solidify its grip on the No. 3 spot in the 94th NCAA basketball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
The Knights drew scoring from their bench and elicited 44 points, including 15 from Jeremiah Taladua and 13 from seldom-used Fran Yu, both career-high efforts, as they stood their ground at third place with a 9-4 (win-loss) record.
They remained a full game ahead of the College of St. Benilde Blazers, who are at No. 4 with an 8-5 mark.
“Good win for us, at least we are still one game ahead,” said Letran coach Jeff Napa. “But we can’t stay complacent, we still have to work and prepare for our next game.”
Nico Galvelo also posted a career-best effort with 15 points in three games since he took over the starting job from Jerrick Balanza, who was decommissioned the rest of the season after undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumor early this month.
The bench effort, plus Galvelo’s show made up for forgettable performances of Quinto and Calvo, who averaged 15.1 points a game apiece entering the game, but managed just nine and five points, respectively, after combining for 20 missed attempts out of 24 tries.
It was a season high for Letran’s bench as its previous best was 17.
Napa hopes it continues.
“The two struggled,” said Letran coach Jeff Napa of the Quinto-Calvo duo. “But I’m confident someone will step up and the three (Galvelo, Taladua and Yu) stepped up with their instant offense. Hopefully, they could be consistent the rest of the season not just in this game.”
The Generals skidded to their 11th defeat against two wins.
Taladua and Yu went on a scoring tear and ignited big runs after big runs in the second half that broke the game wide open.
Calvelo, for his part, wrecked the most damage in the first half when he unloaded 12 points that gave Letran a 36-32 at the break.
Then, Taladua and Yu took charge.