After slow start, Red Lions pounce on Knights
Letran found its bid to keep in step with the leaders of the NCAA Season 98 men’s basketball tournament caught in the intersection of a rival’s rise and the suspension of key players.
And San Beda snapped out of an early funk to pounce on the defending champions.
The Red Lions, eager to return to their familiar perch atop the tournament they had ruled for so long, came from 17 points down to thwart the Knights, 76-68, Friday at San Juan Arena and catch their rivals at three wins in five games.
“We had to put more pressure on them really because all their shots in the first quarter were going in. It was really [the players] picking up the pressure and giving [all-out] efforts that made us win,” San Beda head coach Yuri Escueta said after the Lions bucked a slow start to tie the Knights at third place.St. Benilde and Lyceum were idling at the top two spots and Letran had a chance to forge a three-way deadlock for the lead.But a recent win over Mapua took a lot out of Letran, literally.
The game featured skirmishes that resulted in suspensions handed to vital Knights cogs Brent Paraiso and Louie Sangalang, which both standouts served Friday against San Beda.San Beda led, 70-65, with under three minutes left in the fourth quarter when Fran Yu shot a corner triple to put Letran within two, 70-68.
Fueled by meditation
Veteran Red Lions JB Bahio and Peter Alfaro then sank back-to-back buckets to pop the Knights’ hopes, 74-68, with 11 seconds remaining. Bahio finished with a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds while Alfaro finished with 13 points.
“For me, I have been focused since last night. I meditated and it helped,” said Bahio. “Coach reminded me about my rebounds and I focused there. I put extra effort on the boards.”
“As a senior and veteran, [I felt] we really need to step up,” Bahio, a defensive specialist who also had two steals and one block, added.
For a while, it did look like the Knights had enough ammo to make up for the absence of Paraiso and Sangalang. They knocked down nine triples in the first quarter and sprang to a 33-16 lead.
But San Beda quickly pushed the pace on defense, limiting Letran to only 10 second quarter points and trim the deficit to a point, 43-42.
Kurt Reyson scored a game-high 20 points for Letran, with Fran Yu and King Caralipio adding 17 each.
James Kwekuteye led San Beda in scoring with 17 points, 11 boards and five assists, joining hands with Bahio to engineer the Lions’ fight-back.
“Me and Bahio, our play is like butter,” Kwekuteye said. “Other teams can double team me and I’ll find him in the post and he’ll take over or he can give me the ball if I’m feeling it.”In the first game, Jose Rizal University whipped a pesky Mapua, 67-64, in overtime. INQ
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