Letran topples San Beda, nears NCAA Season 95 title
MANILA, Philippines—Letran is starting to make a habit of beating these highly-ranked teams.
Less than a week after bundling out the Lyceum Pirates in a knockout semis encounter, the Knights dealt a confidence-deflating blow to the San Beda Red Lions, 65-64, to rule the opener of their best-of-three NCAA Season 95 men’s basketball championship Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Fran Yu again made the Knights really look good, pulling off a steal and a crucial rebound in the dying seconds, as they moved to the verge of winning the title.
“He (Fran) is the most improved player this season and it added to his confidence,” said Letran coach Bonnie Tan.
Yu plucked the leather off a Calvin Oftana miss with 1.6 seconds remaining that sealed the victory and ended the 18-game win streak by the Red Lions in the elimination round.
Jerrick Balanza actually gave the Knights a taste of the lead with a three before Yu fed Larry Muyang with underneath that gave them a three-point cushion with less than a minute to go.
“It’s just the first game. Our rebounding was crucial. We were out-rebounded in the first half and we simply addressed that problem,” said Tan.
The Red Lions, defending the title for the fourth straight time, came off a 26-day break after sweeping the eliminations, but San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez doesn’t believe rustiness was the cause of their downfall.
“We didn’t make our three in this game,” said Fernandez after the Lions shot 6 of 40 from three-point range. “But I believe we are capable of bouncing back,” he added.
Game 2 of their best-of-three series is scheduled on Friday with the Knights seeking to win their second championship since defeating the Red Lions in 2015.
LETRAN 65—Batiller 12, Balanza 10, Yu 10, Ambohot 9, Muyang 7, Reyson 7, Mina 3, Ular 3, Caralipio 2, Sangalang 2, Balagasay 0, Olivario 0.
SAN BEDA 64—Nelle 20, Canlas 11, Oftana 11, Tankoua 7, Soberano 6, Bahio 4, Doliguez 3, Etrata 2, Abuda 0, Cuntapay 0, Alfaro 0.
Quarters: 17-18, 28-32, 47-44, 65-64
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