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Santillan's and-one lifts La Salle to FilOil title match, eliminates upbeat Lyceum


By Ivan Saldajeno

SAN JUAN, MM--Santi Santillan saved La Salle from a late surge by Lyceum as the defending FilOil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup champ found itself back in the titular game with a 100-99 semifinal win at the FilOil Flying V Centre on Friday night.

Santillan converted a three-point play with 10 seconds left to put the Green Archers up for good after a wild turn of events reminiscent of their first meeting with the Pirates in the eliminations.

Up by 12, 87-75, with 7:07 left, La Salle let Lyceum go on a 12-1 run that cut the lead to one, 88-87, with 3:49 remaining.

The Archers would reestablish control with a 7-1 run for a 95-88 cushion with 2:07 to go, but the Pirates answered with an 11-2 blast capped by a Reymar Caduyac layup with 35.2 seconds left to put them up, 99-97.

Lyceum came close to sealing the win after Mike Nzeusseu blocked Santillan's attempt, but La Salle got the ball back after a turnover with 26.2 seconds on the clock.

What ensued later was helterskelter basketball that ended with Santillan getting the ball inside and putting it in plus a foul on MJ Ayaay. Santillan drained the bonus free throw.

The Pirates still had a shot at stealing the game, but Nzeusseu failed to catch Caduyac's pass with 3.6 seconds left.

With the possession arrow favoring them, they would force a heldball situation against Santillan, but with 0.3 second left and no timeout left, they had no choice but to throw an alley-oop pass from three-fourths of the court that was failed to be received.

Aljun Melecio, Ricci Rivero, and Ben Mbala combined for 83 points, while Santillan finished with nine for La Salle, which will take on San Beda in the championship game on Sunday at the said venue. The team won despite turning the ball over 28 times, which were credited to all the starters including Melecio, Rivero, Mbala, Santillan, and Andrei Caracut.

CJ Perez dropped 14 points within the last 6:38 of the game to spark Lyceum's last stand and finished with 24 points, but he was not able to make any attempt in the last 1:30 of the game.

The Pirates are relegated to a battle for third against the JRU Heavy Bombers also on Sunday.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno
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