The defending champion San Beda Red Lions will get a chance to go for a four-peat.
Fil-Canadian James Canlas, also known as James Kwekuteye, drilled in a game-high 21 points, including two key charities in the last 4.5 seconds, sending the Red Lions to a 79-76 victory over the Letran Knights Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
SBU tied its best-of three finals series with Letran at 1-all in the 95th National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament, forcing a deciding Game 3 on Tuesday.
The Knights, who won Game 1, 65-64, lost key player Fran Yu to cramps in the last four minutes. They then blew their chance to force an overtime when Jerrick Balanza mishandled a long pass from Larry Muyang as time expired.
Forward Calvin Oftana, who was hailed as the season MVP, shot 17 points with Clint Doliguez, putting the Red Lions in front, 77-76, with his three-point play off Edson Batiller’s fifth foul.
“Letran did a good job. They have been ready for us. Fran Yu, wow. We’re just lucky, he got cramps. That’s why he could not get back in the game. I salute that guy. But again, a win is a win. We’ll take this one. I’m just happy we got over Game 2,” said Red Lions’ coach Boyet Fernandez.
Letran refused to fold in the final quarter and fought its way out of a 66-72 deficit.
With Game 1 hero, point guard Yu battling cramps, the Knights grabbed a 72-all deadlock on a 6-0 run, which Jeo Ambohot capped with a layup off Batiller’s pass.
Before the 5’10” Yu left the court, he showed the way with 23 points, including 14 in the third period, where the Knights battled back from a 25-37 halftime deficit.
Yu capped a 7-0 blast with a jumper that yanked Letran out of 59-all deadlock and into a 66-59 lead with 7:40 left.
He was good for only five points in the final canto, when Yu had to leave the game exhausted and with leg cramps with 3:41 to go.
Earlier, Mclaude Guadana unloaded 19 points, including a crucial triple in the last 41 seconds to help lift the Lyceum Junior Pirates to a 79-74 win over the San Beda Red Cubs in Game 2 of the junior division finals.
Guadana’s trey allowed the Junior Pirates to gain some distance in the dying seconds, 76-71, and the Junior Pirates will have a chance to go for the crown, now that their best-of-three series is tied at 1-1.
“Talagang all-out na yung mga players ko, kasi wala naman kaming choice. Dahil kung hindi, tapos na ang finals. Gusto talaga nila patunayan na kaya na lumaban dito. Of course, first time namin to play in the finals. Pero nakapag-adjust kami, and we executed well on offense and maganda din ‘yung naging depensa ng team,” said Junior Pirates coach JC Docto.
Jarolan Omandac contributed 18 points and had five rebounds for the Junior Pirates, while Yukien Andrada and Justin Sanchez made 18 and 15 points for the Red Cubs.
SAN BEDA 79—Canlas 21, Oftana 17, Doliguez 17, Carino 7, Nelle 5, Soberano 5, Cuntapay 3, Tankoua 2, Abuda 2, Bahio 0, Noah 0
LETRAN 76—Yu 23, Muyang 17, Batiller 11, Ambohot 9, Balanza 9, Caralipio 7, Olivario 0, Ular 0, Mina 0, Reyson 0, Balagasay 0, Sangalang 0.
Quarters: 18-7, 37-25, 53-56, 79-76