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Knights end Red Lions’ 18-game run, near title

Letran fought for possession in the dying seconds and got what it was looking for to bring down defending champion San Beda University for the first time this season, 65-64, moving the Knights one win away from the crown in the 95th National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament yesterday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Larry Muyang of Letran and Donald Tankoua of defending champion San Beda University jockey for rebounding position in Game 1 of the NCAA finals at the Mall of Asia Arena. The Knights won, 65-64. Dennis Abrina
Larry Muyang scored two of his seven points in the last 1:24 off a pass from Fran Yu and the Knights held on in the remaining time to score the win.

Point guard Evan Nelle, who led San Beda with 20 points, accounted for two of three crucial misses in the final minute and hesitated to go for another attempt in the dying seconds. Nelle decided to heave the ball to season MVP Calvin Oftana, who could have scored the winning basket in the last 4.7 seconds.

But Oftana missed a crucial attempt, allowing the Knights keep the ball in their possession until the end and snap the Lions’ 18-game winning streak in the elimination round.

This put the Letran within reach of their first crown in four years and their 18th overall.

The Knights go for a sweep of their best-of-three finals’ series with San Beda University in Game 2 on Friday.

Edson Batiller, who tallied a game-high 11 points for the Knights, kept the ball in Letran’s hands as the clocked winded down after Yu bungled two attempts with 2.4 ticks left.

“One game pa lang naman. But we’re happy with that win. You can see that it’s a tall order to beat this kind of team. We were out-rebounded in the first half, so we addressed that at halftime,” said Knights’ coach Bonnie Tan.

The Knights, who needed three quarters before their running game finally went into full gear, were able to convert 25 of their 60 field goal attempts, while San Beda canned in 26 of 86 tries that afternoon.

Nelle kept San Beda close for the last time at 64-65 with a layup past Muyang in the last 37.5 seconds.

But they could not score again after Letran turned the ball over off a 24-second violation by Jeo Ambohot.

Jerrick Balanza scored 10 points for the Knights, with one of his two triples with Yu in the last 3:45 putting Letran ahead, 62-60.

“Our three-point shots left us today. But I believe and I’m sure my players are capable of coming back, and can make those shots on Friday,” said SBU mentor Boyet Fernandez.

The Red Lions came off a 25-day layoff after sweeping the eliminations, capped by an 85-62 rout of Lyceum, to take an automatic’ finals berth.

James Canlas dished out 11 points with Oftana, while Donald Tankoua had seven markers and 13 rebounds.

Topics: Letran Knights , San Beda University Red Lions , 95th National Collegiate Athletic Association , Larry Muyang , Fran Yu , Bonnie Tan
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