Letran bests San Beda for first title since 2005

Letran bests San Beda for first title since 2005
CLASSIC. Letran topped San Beda in the perfect end to the 91st Season of the NCAA.

Mark Cruz stopped dead in his tracks, Kevin Racal let out a big roar, Aldin Ayo raised his arms in triumph – they all waited so long and fought so hard to get here.

For the first time in a decade, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship is coming to Intramuros after Colegio de San Juan de Letran edged out archrival San Beda College in overtime, 85-82, on Thursday at the MOA Arena.

It didn’t come easy, but it never did all throughout Season 91 during their journey to reclaim the throne. “Yung mga players, they deserve this,” a smiling coach Ayo said in his post-game conference.

The Knights found themselves trailing 79-82 with 1:27 remaining after leading for majority of the matchup. Fortunately for the long-suffering Intramuros community, graduating Racal and Cruz proved steady from the line while rookie Jom Sollano boosted his clutch credentials in a 6-0 finishing kick that gave Letran the game and the championship.

Inside the last two minutes of the final frame, the Knights held a 75-67 lead until the Lions showed their five-time champion heart and scored eight straight points to force overtime.

On the verge of a monumental collapse, Racal shared what their mentor told them to start the extra period: “Sabi sa amin ni coach, atin pa yang laban na yan. Dun kami nabigyan ulit ng kumpyansa.” Pushed by his coach, the Alaska-bound do-it-all forward ended with 23 points and five rebounds.

For an all-around stat line of 14 points, seven assists, and six rebounds, Cruz was hailed as Finals MVP. “Ayaw naming maramdaman ulit yung pagkatalo namin sa San Beda (nung 2012 and 2013),” he answered when asked what fueled their fire.

Also playing in his final collegiate game, Baser Amer scored all but one of his 14 points in the fourth and extra periods only to experience his first runner-up finish in his seven-year stint with San Beda.

Art Dela Cruz and Ola Adeogun posted 14 and 13 points, respectively, in their last outing in the NCAA as the Lions failed to record an unprecedented sixth consecutive championship.

BOX SCORES

LETRAN 82 – Racal 23, Sollano 19, Cruz 14, Nambatac 13, Luib 5, Publico 4, Quinto 4, Calvo 2, Apreku 1, Balanza 0

SAN BEDA 75 – Dela Cruz 15, Amer 14, Mocon 14, Adeogun 13, Sara 9, Tankoua 6, Koga 5, Tongco 4, Soberano 2, Cabanag 0, Reyes 0, Presbitero 0, Sorela 0, Sedillo 0

QUARTER SCORES: 20-12, 40-39, 54-52, 75-75, 82-75 (OT)

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