Letran draws first blood, moves closer to NCAA title

12 November 2019

By Maxine Louise Lagman

MANILA, Philippines – Colegio de San Juan de Letran put an end into San Beda University’s long running winning streak after a 65-65 victory to take Game 1 of the best-of-3 Finals in the NCAA Season 95 men’s basketball tournament on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena. 

Letran ended San Beda’s 32-game winning streak that started last season on August 2019 with the NCAA title now within their reach.

“One game pa lang naman, pero we’re happy for that win. Kasi nga, 18-0, so it’s a tall order na ma-beat ang isang klaseng team na ganyan,” said Letran head coach Bonnie Tan. 

It appeared like the defending champs had everything under control and looked to cruise towards their 19th straight victory as they stayed ahead in the last five minutes of the game, 58-54, off a James Canlas triple. 

But, the Knights did not come all the way to the Finals just to give up easily. Jerrick Balanza knocked down a couple of freebies. Fran Yu followed this with a triple, then Balanza went in for another trey to take the lead, 62-60.

Larry Muyang made a split at the line, and Donald Tankoua took the rebound and made a basket for San Beda. However, Yu made another basket to keep Letran afloat, 65-62.

Evan Nelle answered back with a layup for the Red Lions, 65-64. Odds looked to be in favor of San Beda after Letran committed a 24-second violation, but their defense stopped Calvin Oftana from making a basket on the other end. Yu got the rebound and was fouled by Nelle, but he missed both his shots. 

Time ran out before San Beda could score again, and the Letran community erupted into a chorus of cheers.

“Di pa rin tapos,” said Tan. “Sana ‘di na pakawalan ng mga players. Sila naman naglalaro. Kung gusto nila, kunin nila. We’re here to guide lang and to motivate them. The rest, it’s up to them, kung ano ‘yung gusto nilang mangyari sa season na ito.”

Bonbon Batiller paced Letran with 12 points, while Balanza had 10 markers. Yu made the most crucial baskets, and finished with 10 points, six assists, and three steals. 

On the other hand, Nelle led San Beda with 20 points and seven rebounds, while stalwarts James Canlas and Calvin Oftana were limited to only 11 markers each. 

The two teams will face off for Game 2 at the MOA Arena on Friday.

The Scores:

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.

QUARTER SCORES: 17-18, 28-32, 47-44, 65-64.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @meanxi

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