MANILA, Philippines—Defending champion Letran booked a return trip to the finals after turning back Lyceum in the NCAA Season 98 men’s basketball Final Four, 67-58, at San Juan Arena on Tuesday.
The Knights set up a best-of-three finals showdown with the top-seeded College of St. Benilde Blazers beginning Sunday at Araneta Coliseum. The Blazers sealed their spot in the finals after eliminating the San Beda Red Lions, 62-61, earlier.
“The three-peat, that’s our secondary goal but us, we take our games day-by-day, not thinking of sweeps or anything. Whatever’s given to us, we’ll take it. We’re just happy to be back in the Finals,” said Letran coach Bonnie Tan, whose squad swept St. Benilde in the elimination round.
Brent Paraiso scored seven of his nine points in the last five minutes of the game, including the game-sealing floater that gave Letran a 65-55 cushion with only 1:03 remaining.
The Knights closed out the Pirates with a 12-3 run to break loose from a 55-deadlock.
Behind by five heading into the final frame, Lyceum knotted the count at 55 after an inside basket from Omar Larupay and a triple by Mac Guadaña.
But Letran answered back with a 3-pointer by King Caralipio and a Kurt Reyson layup to keep Lyceum at bay.
Caralipio registered a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds while Fran Yu added 11.
Enoch Valdez had a double-double of his own with 15 points and 11 boards in a losing effort while Guadaña also finished with 14 points.
LETRAN 67 — Yu 11, Caralipio 10, Paraiso 9, Sangalang 9, Javillonar 8, Reyson 7, Olivario 6, Monje 4, Go 3, Ariar 0, Guarino 0.
LPU 58 — Valdez 15, Guadana 14, Bravo 6, Larupay 6, Montano 5, Umali 3, Penafiel 3, Navarro 2, Barba 2, Vinoya 1, Villegas 1, Cunanan 0.
Quarters: 13-17, 30-28, 50-45, 67-58.