Fiery Knights shock Lions
The Letran Knights got a huge emotional lift when chief backer Manny Pacquiao showed up at their dugout minutes before tipoff. They repaid him and the rest of their adoring throng with an awe-inspiring performance that put the Knights on the cusp of ending a decade-long title drought.
Kevin Racal fired 24 of his 28 points in the second half as the Knights overcame the defending champion San Beda Red Lions in a shootout, 94-90, Friday night to take Game 1 of the NCAA Season 91 basketball tournament at a jam-packed SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
Known for their suffocating defense all season long, the Knights got the job done with their scintillating shooting in the final period where Racal combined with Mark Cruz and Rey Nambatac in putting the Lions to the sword.
Nambatac finished with 18 points, including back-to-back treys in a critical stretch in the fourth quarter, while Cruz tallied 17, his last three coming from the foul line to ice the game.
The Knights found an answer to every challenge posed by the Lions, whose downfall was hastened by turnovers from Baser Amer and Ola Adeogun in the final minute.
“We were expecting this kind of game,” said Letran coach Aldin Ayo. “I told the players we just have to be tough.”
The Knights can claim their 17th title and their first since 2005 with another win against the Lions on Tuesday at the same venue.
Pacquiao showed up for a Letran game for the first time this season.
“As soon as he entered the dugout, the players were elated,” said Ayo.
Earlier, San Beda took a step closer to a seventh straight title after trouncing Arellano, 76-68, at the start of the juniors division finals.
LETRAN 94—Racal 28, Nambatac 18, Cruz 17, Luib 16, Sollano 9, Quinto 4, Balagasay 2, APreku 0, Balanza 0, Calvo 0.
SAN BEDA 90—Adeogun 23, Koga 10, Sara 10, Soberano 9, Amer 8, Tankhoua 8, Dela Cruz 7, Tongco 4, Sorela 4, Mocon 4, Presbitero 42, Cabanag 0, Bonsubre 0, Sedillo 0, Reyes 0.
Quarters: 22-21, 39-41, 61-62, 94-90
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