San Beda squeaks past Letran, forces do-or-die Game 3

JR Isaga
The Red Lions keep their title defense alive after fending off the Knights' huge challenge


HOTSHOT. James Canlas steps up when it mattered in Game 2. Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler


MANILA, Philippines – After completing an elimination sweep, San Beda made sure it won’t get swept.

Calvin Oftana buried the go-ahead basket and James Canlas came up with big plays as the Red Lions slipped past the Letran Knights, 79-76, to force a winner-take-all for the NCAA Season 95 men’s basketball championship at the Mall of Asia Arena on Friday, November 15.

Just when the Knights looked all set to pull off a shocking series sweep, the Lions roared back as Oftana kept his MVP poise and drained the go-ahead and-one, 77-76, with 19.1 ticks left.

Canlas also unleashed 21 points, including the buffer free throws in the dwindlings seconds to seal the win that kept the Red Lions’ bid for a fourth straight crown alive. He also finished with 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals 

The Knights – who escaped San Beda by the slimmest of margins, 65-64, and dealt the Lions’ first loss of the season in Game 1 – still had a chance to wrest the lead after Oftana’s clutch shot, but Bonbon Batiller missed inside with 5.1 seconds left. 

Both sides traded cardiac buckets as Canlas tied it up, 66-all with 6:18 left in game.

Oftana then capped a crucial 6-0 run with a putback at the 3:51 mark for a 72-66 San Beda lead.

Unfazed, Letran bounced right back with an 8-0 run of their own, ending with a pair of Larry Muyang free throws in the last 1:29 for a 74-72 Letran edge.

But Oftana responded with a three-point play and Canlas nailed the game shut with cushion free throws for the thrilling triumph that forced a deciding Game 3 at 4 pm on Tuesday, November 19.

Most Improved Player Fran Yu went absolutely bonkers in the 3rd quarter as he closed out the frame with an 8-2 run off two heat-check triples and a buzzer-beating mid-range bank shot that put Letran up, 56-53.

Early on, the Knights kept fighting, willing their way back into the game as they took a 44-41 lead off a Muyang and-one at the 4:42 mark of the 3rd following a sluggish first half where Letran trailed by 12 at the break, 25-37, and fell to 0-15 right in the opening minutes.

The Scores

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.