Letran Knights dethrone San Beda Red Lions

The Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights brought the NCAA Season 95 Championship back to Intramuros after defeating San Beda Red Lions, Tuesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena. Xy-Zha Cabanlong
By Xy-Zha Cabanlong

PASAY CITY - Destiny prevailed over dynasty as the Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights defeated and completed an upset of the impressive performance of the San Beda Red Lions, 81-79, to close out the Season 95 of the NCAA at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Outgoing team captain Jerrick Balanza frontlined the Letran 5 and finished off with 27 points to go along his 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

Bonbon Batiller sizzled in the game, scoring 10 of his 19 points in the first quarter, making up for his missed lay-up error on Game 2 to lead the rally of the Knights against the Red Lions.

Larry Muyang and Allen Mina both scored buzzer-beating baskets in the first and the second quarter, respectively to help the Knights maintain their edge at halftime.

As if they have had enough beating from the Knights in the first half, the Red Lions continued to trail by as much as 13 points in the second half, as free throws and outside shots killed their momentum. Donald Tankoua tried his best to lead San Beda in the quarter as he scored 7 of his 22 points but it was not enough to snatch the lead away from the feisty Letran defense.

Letran continued to outscore the defending champions at the end of three quarters, coming away with a 10-point advantage; 69-59.

The sleeping Red Lions awakened in the last 10 minutes of the season by opening the quarter with a 7-0 run to trim the Knights's lead to 3; 69-66. Calvin Oftana and Clint Doliguez each sank baskets to trim Letran's lead to a point; 71-70.

Balanza and Fran Yu scored crucial free throws for Letran that threatened San Beda all the more, despite the Red Lions's attempt to take the lead.

Evan Nelle sank back to back triples with less than a minute to play in the game to keep San Beda's hopes alive, giving the Red Lions a 2-point trail, 79-81.

Despite regaining possession of the ball with 5.4 seconds to play in the game, Nelle's attempt to score a triple was blocked and while Tankoua was able to pick up the loose ball, the season's Best Foreign Athlete also failed to at least send the game to overtime, causing Letran to walk away with the win.

Yu was named as the Most Valuable Player of the Finals while Letran head coach Bonnie Tan was named as the Coach of the Year.

The victory spoiled San Beda's 4-peat championship, marking an end of another era of the Red Lions in dominating the league.

Box Scores:

Letran 81 - Balanza 27, Batiller 19, Ular 9, Yu 8, Mina 6, Muyang 6, Caralipio 4, Ambohot 2, Balagasay 0, Javillonar 0, Olivario 0, Sangalang 0

San Beda 79 - Tankoua 22, Oftana 18, Doliguez 11, Kwekuteye 11, Nelle 11, Carino 3, Soberano 3, Abuda 0, Bahio 0, Visser 0

Quarterscores: 26-24; 44-38; 69-59; 81-79

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