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Knights surpass Red Lions’ charge to draw closer to NCAA title

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No sweep from Letran!

The Knights drew first blood against archrival San Beda Red Lion, 65-64, in Game 1 of the best-of-three Finals stage in NCAA Season 95 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall Of Asia Arena on Tuesday, November 12.

Tuesday’s classic rivalry matchup did not disappoint numerous fans on both sides, considering that the duel was a dogfight.

San Beda was up by four points in the payoff period, 60-56, when Letran scored seven unanswered points from Fran Yu and Jerrick Balanza’s back-to-back triples, to go along with Larry Muyang’s split free shots, 63-60, inside the three minute mark of the game.

Donald Tankoua powered his way inside the basket, but Muyang hit a lob shot from Yu’s dish with 1:23 left, 65-62.

Still, Evan Nelle’s basket cut the deficit into a single lead with 37.5 ticks left, but reigning MVP Calvin Oftana bluffed his go-ahead three-pointer.

With 2.4 seconds left, Yu was sent to the charity stripes where he missed his first attempt, but he intentionally missed another try to waste the clock and seal the deal for the Knights, 65-64.

Not only did Letran steal the first game of the championship seriess, but they were also snapped San Beda’s 32-game winning streak — making them the first team to do so in about 15 months since the Lyceum Pirates.

“One game pa lang naman, pero we are happy with this one. Eighteen-zero sila so it took hard work to beat that kind of team,” said Letran head coach Bonnie Tan.

Bonbon Batiller led the Knights’ attack with 12 points, five rebounds, and two assists.

Graduating Balanza tallied 10 points and four rebounds, while the newly-crowned Most Improved Player delivered 10 markers, six assists, and three steals.

For San Beda, Evan Nelle topped the scoring column with 20 points while Oftana and James Canlas had 11 markers apiece.

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.