Oftana delivers as San Beda escapes Letran to stay alive for NCAA crown
MANILA, Philippines–With nowhere else to go but to stay alive, San Beda survived Letran, 79-76, on Friday to force a deciding Game 3 in the NCAA Season 95 men’s basketball finals.
No less than Calvin Oftana, the king lion himself, delivered a three-point play on a break that saved the night for the defending champions.
“I just followed and trusted the system. We made sure to play as a team this time,’’ said Oftana, the tournament MVP, in Filipino after missing a potential game-winner three in Game 1.
The Knights, who nearly stole the title away, flubbed the opportunity after Bonbon Batiller lost his grip in a shot that could have won it all for Letran with six seconds remaining.
Evan Nelle, San Beda quick-footed point guard, grabbed the rebound that led to a pair of James Canlas free throws that gave the Lions a three-point edge.
With no timeout left, Jerrick Balanza sailed a strong pass to Allen Mina, sealing their decider come Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“Letran did a good job and they were really ready for us. We’re just lucky tonight after Fran Yu suffered from cramps,’’ said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez.
Yu brought the Knights back to life, sinking three consecutive threes and banking a shot at the buzzer that bumped them ahead, 56-53, entering the fourth.
But the speedy guard writhed in pain while holding his leg after knocking down another three for a 62-59 Letran advantage early in the final quarter, forcing coach Bonnie Tan to send him to the bench.
SAN BEDA 79 – Canlas-Kwekuteye 21, Oftana 17, Doliguez 17, Carino 7, Nelle 5, Soberano 5, Cuntapay 3, Tankoua 2, Abuda 2, Bahio 0, Noah 0.
LETRAN 76 – Yu 23, Muyang 17, Batiller 11, Ambohot 9, Balanza 9, Caralipio 7, Olivario 0, Ular 0, Mina 0, Reyson 0, Balagasay 0, Sangalang 0.
Quarters: 18-7; 37-25; 53-56; 79-76.
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