Letran solves LPU puzzle, sets up NCAA 95 Finals date with San Beda

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Nov 08, 2019 06:04 PM
Letran solves LPU puzzle, sets up Finals date with San Beda
(Photo by Arvin Lim)

Turns out, an older Fran Yu and a healthy Jerrick Balanza were all Colegio de San Juan de Letran needed to get the Lyceum of the Philippines University monkey of its back in the stepladder playoffs of the NCAA 95 Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Yu razzled and dazzled in the face of pressure while Balanza came up big in the endgame as the third-seeded Knights charged right through the second-seeded Pirates for a hardfought 92-88 win, Friday at Cuneta Astrodome.

Yu and Balanza conspired with Larry Muyang in the 15-2 spurt in the middle of the final frame that erased a one-point deficit and erected an 84-72 advantage. "I'll give this one to my veterans. They never gave up so it was all about determination," head coach Bonnie Tan said post-game.

In that pivotal push, the graduating guard was hitting his patented midrange jumpers while the bruising big man was making good on his trademark inside baskets.

It was their second-year point guard, though, who was running the show and turned in three of his 20 points and two of his six assists in that five-minute span.

LPU still tried to mount a rally from there and even neared to just 87-90 with 24 ticks to go on the clock, but Muyang and Bonbon Batiller turned them back once and for all.

Without a doubt, Balanza made the most out of his time on the floor as he missed Letran’s semifinals defeat to the Pirates a year ago due to a brain injury.

Yu played in that sorry loss, but fell short in stepping up in  place of starter JP Calvo who incurred a leg injury in the game.

That was not happening in this one as he proved capable and confident at the head of the Knights’ charge while also adding five rebounds under his belt.

Muyang then pounded in 19 points and nine rebounds while Balanza poured in 11 markers and three boards.

Batiller contributed 13 points, six rebounds, and six assists of his own as Letran made its way back into the Finals for the first time since its championship in 2015. "I want to give them something na 'di siguro nabigay the past few years. Siyempre, we're looking forward sa next level na laro," coach Bonnie said.

There, they will faceoff with age-old rival San Beda University which is seeking another four-peat. Game 1 of the best-of-three championship round tips off on Tuesday at MOA Arena.

For the Pirates, Jaycee Marcelino gave his all with 26 points, three rebounds, and three assists while Mike Nzeusseu posted a 19-marker, 15-board double-double.

Falling victim to Letran's balanced attack, however, they finish out of the Finals for the first time in two years.

BOX SCORES

LETRAN 92 - Yu 20, Muyang 19, Batiller 13, Balanza 11, Reyson 6, Mina 5, Sangalang 5, Balagasay 4, Ular 4, Caralipio 2, Javillonar 2, Ambohot 1, Olivario 0.

LPU 88 - Jc. Marcelino 26, Nzeusseu 19, David 11, Caduyac 5, Jv. Marcelino 5, Navarro 5, Tansingco 4, Ibanez 4, Remulla 4, Santos 3, Guinto 2, Valdez 0.

QUARTER SCORES: 20-26, 44-40, 67-66, 92-88.

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