Hurting no more
Fran Yu certainly didn’t like the way the Letran Knights ended last season when the Lyceum Pirates showed them the door in the semifinals.
Facing the same team in a similar setting, Yu made sure the frustration of the past wouldn’t transpire again after the sharp-witted guard powered the Knights over the highly favored Pirates, 92-88, to progress to the finals of Season 95 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
“It was a painful exit for us last season. Coming into this game, I vowed not to experience that again,” said Yu, who managed an all-around performance of 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting, highlighted by a pair of threes.
The 5-foot-8 Yu drove, hit jumpers, found the open man and was just a nightmare for the Pirates, particularly during a decisive fourth-quarter stretch that helped the Knights clear the second hurdle in their stepladder semifinal campaign.
Coupled with another tight win over San Sebastian at the start of the semifinals, the Knights will now turn their attention to the title series where the defending champion—and super formidable—San Beda Red Lions are eagerly waiting to retain their crown.
The Knights had to push the Stags out of the way before eliminating the No. 2 Pirates to arrange the best-of-three title showdown with the Lions starting Tuesday, their fifth championship matchup since 2007.
“I have to give it to my veterans. We’re now looking forward to the next level,” said Letran coach Bonnie Tan, who also coached the Pirates before Topex Robinson took over.
Larry Muyang found his way inside the paint in the closing minutes and won his matchup with Lyceum’s brawny center Mike Nzeusseu, while graduating guard Edson Batiller and team captain Jerrick Balanza likewise proved to be the thorn on the Pirates’ side.
“We don’t want to end our season yet. The past two games saw us play with great effort and determination,” said Balanza, a member of the 2015 Letran champion squad that defeated the Lions.
Jaycee Marcelino took over in the final two minutes when the Pirates, who swept the Knights in their two-game face-off during the eliminations, tried to erase an 11-point advantage.
In juniors action, John Barba scattered 36 points to carry the Lyceum Junior Pirates past the San Sebastian Staglets, 78-76, and arrange a best-of-three title showdown with the San Beda Red Cubs on Tuesday.
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