Knights seal Game 3 title clash with Lions
Letran Knights beats San Beda Red Lions, 80-86, in Thursday’s game at the NCAA finals’ game 2. Video by Noy Morcoso III/INQUIRER.net
Letran responded to the challenge with a tough and resilient stand this time, repulsing San Beda, 79-74, yesterday to forge a winner-take-all Game 3 tomorrow for the 89th NCAA basketball crown at Mall of Asia Arena.
The Knights, who lost the title-series opener by playing soft, according to coach Caloy Garcia, came out with plenty of fire behind Mark Cruz in the second half and managed to keep their hopes for a 17th title alive.
Earlier, the San Beda Red Cubs punctuated an amazing season with a 65-59 thumping of La Salle Green Hills for a fifth straight juniors crown.
It was San Beda’s 21st title overall, a feat made even more remarkable by the fact that the Cubs went unbeaten in 20 games this season.
Cruz paced Letran with 16 points, 10 of them in the final period, and the Knights’ reserves finally showed up to stun a San Beda squad that looked ready to seal the title after an explosive finish lifted the Lions to a 37-32 lead at halftime.
McJour Luib filled in impressively when Cruz was rested in the second half, where he had three crucial baskets, while Jamil Gabawan and John Tambeling combined for 13 points as Letran’s bench outplayed their San Beda counterparts.
“The players really stepped up,” said Garcia. “I just challenged them. Our problem in Game 1 is that we were tentative. The other players were thinking too much about the game and we needed to find a way to ease the pressure from there.”
Game 3 is slated at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow, also at MOA Arena.
Awarded the Most Valuable Player trophy before the game, Raymond Almazan wound up with 12 points and eight boards, before going down with cramps in the final minutes.
But Ford Ruaya and Kevin Racal also provided solid support with 12 points apiece. The Knights did not wilt in the final period this time as Ruaya, Racal and Luib combined in an 8-0 burst after a 64-all deadlock.
The Lions cut the lead to 69-72, but Almazan, Cruz and Rey Nambatac preserved the win for the Knights with clutch baskets.
San Beda forward Art dela Cruz sizzled with four triples on his way to a season-high 23 points that went with 12 rebounds. Dela Cruz had the San Beda faithful in delirium when he knocked in back-to-back treys in a 30-second span to close the first half.
But Baser Amer and Ivan Ludovice couldn’t replicate their fourth-quarter heroics in Game 1. Amer struggled, going 3-of-21 from the field, while Ludovice only had two points.
Hobbled by foul trouble, Ola Adeogun still finished with 10 points and 13 boards. Adeogun buried a triple with 17 seconds remaining to trim the gap to 74-77, but Cruz, who was rested in the third period, sealed the win with two free throws, time down to 10 seconds.
The last team to pull off a perfect season in juniors’ play was San Sebastian in 2008.
SAN BEDA 65—Tongco 17, Caracut 14, Tolentino 12, Diputado 10, Mocon 4, Abude 3, Decapia 2, Gumtang 2, Abuda 1, Abatayo 0.
CSB-LSGH 59—Barrera 17, Rivero 15, Paras 11, Dela Cruz 6, Abadeza 5, Ramilo 3, Lanot 2, San Juan 0.
Quarters: 24-8, 39-28, 51-46, 65-59
LETRAN 79—Cruz 16, Ruaya 12, Racal 12, Almazan 12, Tambeling 8, Luib 6, Nambatac 6, Gabawan 5, Belorio 2, Buenaflor 0.
SAN BEDA 74—Dela Cruz 23, Adeogun 10, Dela Rosa 10, Amer 8, D. Semerad 8, A. Semerad 6, Abarcar 4, Sara 3, Ludovice 2, Mendoza 0, Pascual 0.
Quarters: 12-17, 32-37, 54-51, 79-74
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