Knights oust Stags, forge duel vs LionsBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
(Mall of Asia Arena)
4 p.m.—San Beda vs San Sebastian (Jrs)
6 p.m.—San Beda vs Letran (Srs)
Pint-sized guard Mark Cruz stood tallest in the final period as Letran edged San Sebastian, 73-70, at Filoil Flying V Arena last night to reach the NCAA basketball finals for the first time in five years.
The smallest player on the floor at 5-foot-7, Cruz drilled in 10 of his 20 points in the last period as the Knights overcame the Stags’ twice-to-beat edge to earn the right to face the defending champion San Beda Lions in the finals.
Game 1 of the best-of-three finals between two of the NCAA’s winningest teams is slated Thursday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Cruz hit the biggest shots, none bigger than his jumper with 1:52 left that gave the Knights a 69-66 cushion.
Ian Sangalang struck for the Stags, who even went ahead through Dexter Maiquez, but the Knights made key defensive stops before Jonathan Belorio and Jam Cortes hit four free throws to ice the game.
The Knights’ win completed a four-game sweep of the Stags this season. This one, however, had so much at stake and Letran coach Louie Alas still felt his team needed to double its effort to repeat their last three victories.
“It came down on their willingness to win,” said Alas. “There was no more need for Xs and Os. In this game, I was more of a cheerleader than the coach.”
Coming off a 43-point explosion in the series opener last Saturday, Kevin Alas cooled off with 18 points. But his layup with 6:15 remaining was part of the quick burst from the Knights that allowed Letran to regain the lead.
LETRAN 73—Cruz 20, Alas 18, Belorio 10, Racal 8, Almazan 7, Lituania 4, Gabawan 4, Cortes 2, Luib 0.
SAN SEBASTIAN 70—Abueva 22, Sangalang 15, Gusi 10, Juico 7, Dela Cruz 6, Pascual 6, Maiquez 4, Miranda 0, Antipuesto 0.
Quarters: 25-22, 44-40, 56-54, 73-70