Almazan flirts with triple-double as Knights destroy Stags to enter NCAA Finals
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - November 7, 2013 - 4:01pm

MANILA, Philippines – Pro-bound Raymond Almazan churned in a monster performance, falling one block short of a triple double, to lead Letran to an 85-58 demolition of Final Four rival San Sebastian and into the championship round of the 89th NCAA seniors basketball tourney at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Almazan,  who was drafted third overall in last Sunday's PBA rookie draft by Rain or Shine, fired 19 points, grabbed 23 rebounds and had nine shot blocks in a dominating stint that paved the way for the Knights' second straight finals appearance.

"Bago ako mag-pro, gusto ko mag-champion so focused talaga ako sa NCAA," said the 6-foot-7 star, the leading contender for the MVP plum. "Wala akong pakialam kung ano'ng makuha kong award, balewala iyun kung hindi kami mag-champion."

The 24-year-old Almazan shot a perfect 7-for-7 in the two-point area and missed his lone attempt from beyond the arc. He had nine offensive boards, which helped Letran score 13 second-chance points and had the most blocks since San Beda's Sudan Daniel had 10 blocks in 2010.

"He really deserves to be in the PBA. Sayang lang hindi niya nakuha yung 10 blocks. Ang kagandahan naman sa kanya, he doesn't care, basta manalo. He just has to bring it to the next level in the finals," said coach Caloy Garcia of his prized slotman.

 Mark Cruz shot 19 for Letran along with four assists, while Kevin Racal added 16 markers and Rey Nambatac chipped in 13, all of them in the fourth period where the Knights enjoyed their biggest lead at 83-55.

"Lahat kami may kumpyansa, may go-signal kay coach na tumira. Kung sino nasa loob, wag mag-hesitate tumira, kahit magkamali, yan ang maganda sa coaching staff namin," said Almazan.

The Knights held Jaymar Perez and John Ortuoste to 11 and 10 markers, respectively, on a combined 7-for-37 clip.

"That was the plan. We didn't want Ortuoste and Perez to do what they've been doing all season," said Garcia.

As to which between No. 1 San Beda and No. 4 Perpetual they prefer as opponents in the finals, Garcia said: "Both are good, strong. Sa akin we just have to think of ourselves first and be ready."

The Scores:

CSJL 85 - Cruz 19, Almazan 19, Racal 16, Nambatac 13, Tambeling 7, Olotu 3, Castro 2, Po 2, Ruaya 2, Luib 2, Belorio 0, Buenaflor 0, Gabawan 0, Publico 0.

SSCR 58 - Perez 11, Dela Cruz 10, De Vera 10, Ortuoste 10, Guinto 8, Aquino 4, Rebollos 3, Vergara 2, Balucanag 0, Gusi 0, Padilla 0, Trinidad 0, Balid 0, Tano 0, Magno 0.

Quarterscores: 17-10, 32-27, 57-44, 85-58.

ALMAZAN CALOY GARCIA DE VERA DELA CRUZ FINAL FOUR GARCIA JAYMAR PEREZ AND JOHN ORTUOSTE KEVIN RACAL LETRAN MALL OF ASIA ARENA
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