Rhenz Abando came through with a double-double effort of 14 points and 12 rebounds as Letran scored a 75-65 win over Mapua to claim its 19th NCAA men’s basketball championship Sunday at the jam packed Filoil Flying V Centre.
The Knights bagged their second straight championship – the first back-to-back title run since 1998-99.
Perfect in 12 games, Letran also became the first team to fashion out an undefeated season since San Beda posted a 18-0 record in 2010.
The Knights were relentless after the first 10 minutes of play, taking a 19-8 lead on a King Caralipio’s buzzer-beating putback.
Looking sharp despite a right foot injury he sustained in the opener, Abando got his rhythm and scored the first basket of the game at the 5:47 mark of the second period as Letran opened a 29-15 advantage.
The Knights led by as much as 21 points in the second half before the Cardinals made a last-gasp uprising, cutting down the deficit to 65-70 on a Paulo Hernandez triple.
Abando then scored a floater and two free throws for Letran to gain the needed separation at 74-65 with 1:13 remaining.
Pro-bound Jeo Ambohot, whose go-ahead basket in the final 45 seconds of Game 1 keyed the Knights the come-from-behind 68-63 victory, was named the Finals MVP after finishing with 13 points and nine rebounds in the clincher.
Mark Sangalang, Letran’s bruising big man, was also solid with 11 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.
The Knights prevailed despite losing Brent Paraiso, who was ejected with 5:11 left in the third period for an unsportsmanlike foul after getting a technical foul earlier in the game.
Hernandez and Rence Nocum each had 14 points for Mapua.