Knights rebound from first defeat by stopping Blazers
Less than a week removed from seeing its three-year winning streak snapped, Letran on Friday put a stop to a streaking St. Benilde squad and made it known that it is capable of pulling out what it set out to do for Season 98 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
With Brent Paraiso and Fran Yu shining offensively and Louie Sangalang anchoring a no-nonsense defense in the stretch, the three-peat-seeking Knights nosed out the Blazers, 81-75, at San Juan Arena to bounce back from their first loss in more than two years like only they can.
“Coming from a loss, I told my players we need a bounce-back win. This is a good team to face because they are the last team without a loss,” Letran head coach Bonnie Tan said after his charges held the Blazers to a season-low output and take down the last undefeated team in the tournament.
Perpetual Help, meanwhile, improved to 2-2 later after a 79-77 nipping of Mapua in the second game. The Cardinals slipped to 1-3.
It was the second win in three games for the Knights, who drew a career-high 25 points from Paraiso. The veteran Fran Yu had 12 points, nine rebounds, six assists and the same number of steals.
“I challenged (my players) to not have a repeat of the Arellano (game) result,” Tan said, referring to a 72-69 loss earlier in the week. “The players were very focused.”
Benilde lost for the first time in four games despite getting 23 points from Will Gozum, whom Sangalang shut down when it mattered.
The Knights held a comfortable 75-66 lead with 6:50 left, when the Blazers mounted a 9-2 run capped by a Gozum bucket inside to inch closer, 77-75, with 2:36 remaining.
Sangalang swatted away a Gozum floater with 26.7 seconds left before quickly following up with a steal off Migs Corteza to seal the deal for the Knights.
“I’m more focused on defense. It can be seen that on offense, I was struggling because they scouted me well. In my mind, I will just bounce back on defense,” said Sangalang, who finished with only four points but snagged 10 rebounds and had three assists that went with just two fouls.
Meanwhile, the league postponed Saturday’s lone match between San Sebastian and Lyceum after six Stags were placed under health and safety protocols.
Tuesday’s game between San Sebastian and Emilio Aguinaldo will also be played at a later date.
League rules specify that if a team has two or more players under health watch, the squad automatically needs to sit out seven days.
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