MANILA, Philippines – Colegio de San Juan de Letran star Rey Nambatac knows all too well how explosive Jose Rizal University (JRU) point guard Paolo Pontejos can be, so he took it upon himself to guard the Heavy Bomber in their NCAA Season 92 showdown on Thursday, which the Knights won 67-62.
In Season 91, Pontejos sparked JRU’s 86-80 victory over Letran in the second round, scoring 21 points in the win that, at the time, boosted the Heavy Bombers’ Final 4 charge and dropped the Knights to 11-4.
In their first meeting of Season 92, Pontejos was again waxing hot, scoring 15 points in the first half to lead the Heavy Bombers to a 29-23 lead in the first half. He hit a long three-pointer just before the buzzer to push JRU’s advantage to six.
“Sabi nga namin noong practice namin na pagka Letran ang kalaban, talagang pumuputok si Pontejos,” Nambatac said. “At ayun nga, nangyari nga.”
Nambatac, who has been Letran’s first option offensively all throughout the season, decided to take the challenge of limiting Pontejos in the second half.
“Noong second half, ako na ang bumabantay sa kanya. Sabi ko kay coach, ‘Coach, ibigay mo na sa akin si Pontejos. Ako na ang babantay’,” he said.
Pontejos still scored 12 points in the second half to finish with 27 but he missed all three of his three-pointers in the third and fourth quarters. Nambatac shadowed him, fighting over screens to ensure that Pontejos will have trouble even just catching the ball.
“Talagang pinahirapan ko siya,” Nambatac said. “Ginawa ko ‘yung best ko para ma-stop siya.”
Pontejos had four points in the final quarter, converting back-to-back lay-ups in crunch time that kept JRU within striking distance. But Nambatac put his efforts to naught, as he drained a cold-blooded three-pointer that essentially proved to be the dagger.
Nambatac finished with 29 points in the game, 15 of which came in the final quarter.
For Pontejos, it was another disappointing loss in a season that has not gone as expected for the Heavy Bombers.
“Siguro, nakaka-stop talaga sila ng plays eh,” he said. “Sumusunod lang naman kami sa mga play.”
The loss dropped JRU to 2-4, while Letran improved to 5-2 and gained a share of second place.
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