MANILA, Philippines – Four straight championships, and the 18th NCAA basketball title.
That’s what the San Beda Red Lions achieved on Saturday, November 16 at the Mall of Asia Arena as they went through the eye of the needle to turn back once again their rivals Letran Knights, 60-56, in a classic Game 3 Finals of NCAA Season 89.
Letran shot better from the field in the first half, making 11 of their 28 field goals, while the Lions only shot 8 of 28. The Knights also caught fire as they outscored San Beda, 23-10, in the second period alone.
But after that poor first half showing, the Lions dug deep in their well of championship experience to get their act together in the second half and played their brand of defense.
San Beda had the upperhand in the final stretch of the third quarter and in the early goings of the final period after Letran big man Raymond Almazan was called for his fourth foul with over 3 minutes left in the third. This development allowed the Lions to have their way underneath, driving relentlessly, beating the Knights for the rebounds and forcing them to the outside.
Both teams dragged themselves into the deep waters of Game 3, exchanging baskets and getting the lead alternately well within the final two minutes of play. But a huge defensive block by big man Ola Adeogun on the driving Kevin Racal proved to be the proverbial nail on the coffin as Letran suffered their second straight finals loss.
Art Dela Cruz was fittingly named best player of the game and Finals MVP with his 20 pts, 16 rebounds, 3 assists for Game 3.