MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATED) Letran broke away early then weathered Emilio Aguinaldo College’s second-half charge, pulling off an 86-80 win and a guaranteed playoff shot at a Final Four berth in the 88th NCAA basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan last night.
Jam Cortes delivered a career-high 25 points on a remarkable 11-of-15 coming with a game-high 14 rebounds as the Knights collected an 11th win against six defeats.
Letran goes for an outright semis entry versus Arellano U on Oct. 6.
“We’re taking it one game at a time, so we will relish this win first,” said Letran coach Louie Alas, whose charges have won seven of their last eight assignments to zoom from nowhere to No. 3.
Cortes played big in their surge, coming through with 17 points and 10 rebounds earlier against Jose Rizal.
“Jam (Cortes) always gives his best day in and day out, whether it’s a real game or just a practice session so I’m not surprised he’s playing this big,” said Alas.
In the nightcap, defending champion San Beda survived a spirited fightback by Perpetual Help in the stretch and preserve a 60-53 win.
The win by the Lions avenged their 87-88 overtime defeat to the Altas in their first round meeting last July 12.
Perpetual fell from a share of third with Letran going into this game to a share of fourth with Jose Rizal on 10-7 cards.
The Knights pulled through on clutch plays by Cortes and Alas.
In juniors action, San Beda slammed Perpetual, 96-61, to clinch the other twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four with a 15th win against a loss.
Former national youth mainstay Arvin Tolentino paced the Cubs with 20 points and 14 rebounds while Ranbill Tongco, Lance Abude and Andrei Caracut contributed 14, 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Letran, meanwhile, edged EAC, 61-53, to jump into a share of fourth spot with idle Mapua with similar 10-5 marks.