By WAYLON GALVEZ
Games Tuesday (Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City)
1 p.m. – San Beda vs Lyceum (Jrs)
4 p.m. – San Beda vs Letran (Srs)
The Battle of Intramuros went to the wire, with Letran finding the perfect time to win and the law of averages coming down hard on Lyceum.
With the second finals berth at stake, the Knights finally found a way to score a huge win against the Pirates 92-88, moving to the championship series of NCAA Season 95 Friday night at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
Fran Yu, a second year point guard, anchored Letran’s attack as he collected 20 points with five rebounds and six assists, leading the Knights to the finals for the first time in four years.
With Letran protecting a one-point lead 67-66, the 5-foot-9 Yu presided over a 19-9 run capped by a Larry Muyang layup that gave them an 88-77 advantage with 2:44 remaining.
Lyceum, a finalist the last two seasons and winner over Letran twice in the elimination round, came within three points 90-87 behind veteran guard Jaycee Marcelino.
The Knights answered back, however, with a Muyang layup making it 92-87, time down to 18.1 seconds.
Muyang, a third-year center, delivered big for Letran as he collected 19 points with nine boards, holding his own against Cameroonian center Mike Nzeusseu.
Bonbon Batiller and Jerrick Balanza, two of the team’s graduating players this summer, also came through with double digit scoring for the Knights – the former had 13 points while the latter added 11 points.
Letran’s first-year coach Bonnie Tan said it was the effort of his players, which carried the team back to the finals for the first time since winning it all during the 2015 season against San Beda.
“I give it to my veterans, lalo sa mga outgoing players ko,” said Tan, NorthPort’s team manager in the PBA. “They want to prove something na hindi nila na-prove last year… they never gave up.”
“Breaks of the game, with their effort and determination. Nakaka-lungkot lang na kailangan talunin yung former team ko,” added Tan, who coached Lyceum for a couple of season after the school joined the NCAA in 2013.
“But kailangan mag-move forward. Now I’m happy na makakalaro na ng championship itong mga players ko. Honestly, before taking the job, I know that this team is very talented.”
Letran battles well-rested San Beda, a team that has won the NCAA title the past three seasons. The best-of-three series starts Tuesday at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.
The Red Lions earned an outright finals berth after sweeping the elimination round with an 18-0 record.
“We’ll see. Hindi pa namin iniisip sa ngayon kung papaano,” said Tan of the Knights’ chances against the Red Lions.
“Naka-sweep sila sa eliminations. Basta kami we’ll be ready sa finals. Hindi ko naman masabi… basta laban kami,” said Tan, whose team controlled the rebounding department 47-40 and shot almost 50 percent from the field while holding Lyceum below 44 percent.
Marcelino led Lyceum with 26 points, while Nzeusseu – in his final year with the Pirates – finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds. Jayson David added 11 points.
LETRAN 92 – Yu 20, Muyang 19, Batiller 13, Balanza 11, Reyson 6, Mina 5, Sangalang 5, Balagasay 4, Ular 4, Caralipio 2, Javillonar 2, Ambohot 1, Olivario 0.
LYCEUM 88 – Marcelino J.C. 26, Nzeusseu 19, David 11, Caduyac 5, Marcelino J.V. 5, Navarro 5, Tansingco 4, Ibañez 4, Remulla 4, Santos 3, Guinto 2, Valdez 0.
Quarters: 20-26; 44-40; 67-66; 92-88.