A tight back and forth game through three quarters was blown wide open when the defense of the Letran Knights finally started to click, holding the Mapua Cardinals to just two field goals in the final quarter of this opening day game. Letran was up two at the start of the fourth, but scored 10 straight to kick off the quarter, as it took Mapua nearly five minutes before scoring, albeit on charities. The first field goal took seven minutes, a Yousef Taha dunk, but by then it was all over bar the shouting, and a little skirmish as well, as Taha was caught throwing the ball at the head of Kevin Alas. That got two Letran players off their bench, and the result was all three of them getting slapped with one-game suspensions, perhaps, a reasonable price to pay for the 76-65 upset, and a tone-setting first encounter for the now third place Letran team. (Recap here)
What's at Stake:
- The Letran Knights are hanging around at third place with a 9-2 record. The hope is that either San Beda or San Sebastian slips, either by the Knights' hand or some other team, and that they can take advantage and move up in the standings. To do that though, they'll need to keep winning, and that means handling this suddenly surging Mapua squad.
- The MIT Cardinals have gone from 2-4 to 6-6, and coupled with some Lyceum offense no-shows, have usurped the fourth seed. They're not going to be content with that record though, especially with a pack of teams behind them waiting to push Mapua off the mountain. If they can defeat Letran, then that opens the possibility of moving all the way up to third should things line up for them.
CSJL Player to Watch : 6'7" center Raymond Almazan has just had a pair of mediocre games, failing to hit double-digit points or rebounds versus Arellano and JRU, as opponents have learned to keep him glued to the bench with foul trouble. They'll need him though to match up against Yousef Taha and the other Mapua bigs, so he shouldn't bite on every shot fake or else face the ire of head coach Louie Alas.
MIT Player to Watch : Josan Nimes has been the key to Mapua's resurgence, as he's scored at least 20 points in their four-game streak. His height makes him a size mismatch, but you can expect Letran to throw people like VJ Espiritu and Kevin Racal at him, possibly even Kevin Alas come crunchtime. In their first meeting, Nimes had just six points and a whopping five turnovers. He's no doubt looking for a chance to bounce back from that.
Prediction: CSJL Knights