After committing the crucial turnover which sealed Racal’s 77-75 loss to Jose Rizal U two weeks back, Rey Nambatac was eager to atone for his miscue.
He had his chance on Thursday as the Letran swingman not only dazzled with his ankle-breakers, but also provided the pivotal plays down the stretch in the Tile Masters’ 82-78 victory over Cafe France.
None was bigger than his assist to Jackson Corpuz with 59.2 seconds to play for the go-ahead basket, 76-75.
“We just showed that we won’t fold that easily. We really wanted to win this game and we stuck with the system, played as a team, and finished strong,” he said in Filipino.
Nambatac finished with 24 points, eight coming in the fourth frame, on top of seven rebounds and two assists in the victory, which improved Racal’s record to 7-1, enough to book an outright semifinals seat.
It also allowed the Tile Masters to breathe that sigh of relief as they go on to their final game against Cignal-San Beda without much pressure, knowing that regardless of the result, they are already secured in the top two.
But Racal will still go out with much fervor on Monday at JCSGO Gym in Cubao, with the last eliminations game, which will be a battle for the top spot, serving as the perfect preparation for the tougher grind in the playoffs.
“This will be a big test for us to gauge on how far we can go in the playoffs. Cignal is a tough team, so we really have to work hard against them,” he said.
Nambatac also hopes that the rest of the Tile Masters use this final elimination game as a chance to show their poise as they gear towards their dream of making a first franchise D-League Finals appearance.
“Nothing changes. We can’t relax because coming to the playoffs, things will just get rougher,” he said. “Monday’s game will be a good experience for us to correct our lapses and for us to figure out the things we need to do come playoff time.”