Knights force Game 3By Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines — This time, it was Letran that made the biggest plays down the stretch.
Showing plenty of grit and resolve at crunchtime, the Knights scraped past the San Beda Red Lions, 64-55, Saturday night to force a winner-take-all duel for the 88th NCAA basketball tournament title at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Kevin Alas and Jonathan Belorio knocked in critical shots in the Knights’ strong fourth quarter finish that knotted the series at one game apiece.
Game 3 of the finals between two of the league’s winningest teams is slated Thursday also at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“It means a lot but we can’t be very happy,” said Letran coach Louie Alas, whose Knights fashioned out the victory before the league’s biggest crowd this season at 15,342.
“This win will mean nothing if we don’t win on Thursday. We have to play several notches higher than this in Game 3.”
Cubs seize fourth straight title
San Beda earlier extended its dominance in the juniors division with a masterful 83-58 triumph over San Sebastian.
Arvin Tolentino and Joshua Caracut fired 13 points apiece, while Javee Mocon chipped in 10 as the Cubs led from start to finish on their way to a first ever fourth consecutive crown.
A big man with a smooth touch at the perimeter, Belorio buried a triple with 2:57 remaining to extend the Knights’ lead to 60-52. And although Baser Amer responded with a trey to cut the lead to five points, the Knights put up a solid defensive stand to hold the Lions scoreless in the last two minutes.
It was Letran’s first win over San Beda in 16 games in the run that dates back to July 2007. The loss was also the Lions’ first in the finals since 2009 when they lost to the San Sebastian Stags.
Struggling in the first three quarters, Alas came alive with six points in the last period. Alas finished with 10 points in 35 minutes.
Groping for form in the perimeter, the Knights’ leading scorer knocked in a couple of three-point plays—the last giving the Knights a 57-50 cushion with 4:36 remaining.
Aching to bounce back from a 60-62 loss to San Beda in Game 1, the Knights seized control early with Carlo Lituania providing an unlikely lift off the bench. Scoreless in Game 1, Lituania shot nine of his 11 points in the first half to help the Knights establish a 37-28 buffer at halftime.
The Lions made their move in the third period with Ola Adeogun scoring inside the paint, while the Knights struggled with just four points. Two free throws from Amer off a technical foul called on coach Louie Alas gave the Lions their first lead of the game, 43-41, 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Earlier, Ian Sangalang of San Sebastian was awarded the Most Valuable Player honor for the first time in his career.
SAN BEDA 83—Tolentino 13, Caracut 13, Mocon 10, Abatayo 8, Diputado 6, Furaque 6, Tongco 5, Abude 5, Gumtang 5, Abuda 3, Macapayag 3, Inigo 2, Brojan 2, De Villeres 2, Romero 0.
SAN SEBASTIAN 58—Costelo 10, Escalambre 10, Loor 8, Gayosa 7, Yong 5, Navarro 5, Miasco 5, Calisaan 4, Magno 2, Santos 2, Velasco 0, Gatdula 0, Malamug 0, Causon 0.
Quarters: 16-12, 32-25, 56-41, 83-58
LETRAN 64—Belorio 15, Cruz 12, Lituania 11, Alas 10, Cortes 10, Racal 2, Almazan 2, J. Alas 2. Luib 0.
SAN BEDA 55—Adeogun 12, Caram 9, Amer 9, K. Pascual 9, J. Pascual 6, Dela Rosa 4, Dela Cruz 4, Koga 2, Lim 0, Mendoza 0.
Quarters: 18-14, 37-28, 41-43, 64-55