ANTIPOLO, Philippines – In an extremely hostile environment at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City, the Letran Knights bucked the suspension of star guard Fran Yu with a shocking NCAA finals Game 3 blowout of the College of St. Benilde (CSB) Blazers, 81-67, to complete a rare men’s basketball title three-peat.
King Caralipio ended his collegiate career as a three-time champion and the Season 98 Finals MVP with a big 20-point, 10-rebound double-double plus 2 assists on an elite 7-of-10 clip and 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
Brent Paraiso likewise ended his career with three championships after an earlier stint with the UAAP’s La Salle Green Archers and capped off the series with 16 points, 3 boards, 2 dimes, 2 blocks, and 1 steal, while Kobe Monje scored 11 with 4 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Coming off a small 24-21 lead in a stoppage-plagued, 41-minute first quarter, Letran got going in the second with a pivotal 27-7 run, peaking with a 23-point gap, 51-28, off a Louie Sangalang layup, and never looked back.
CSB had its moments in the third and fourth quarter, but the Blazers never strung enough stops as their season hit its lowest point after MVP Will Gozum was disqualified off a headbutt on Pao Javillonar with 1:44 left to play.
After an extremely disappointing first half where he got 2 points, 1 rebound, 3 fouls, and 2 turnovers in a little over 5 minutes, Gozum wrapped up the game with 10 points and 2 boards in a shade under 20 minutes before getting thrown out.
Miggy Corteza paced the sorry loss with 14 points on a 9-of-10 clip from the line, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block, while Jimboy Pasturan scored 10 with a game-high 6 assists plus 2 boards.
Letran’s latest championship marks its 20th in its storied history and its first title three-peat since 1982 to 1985.
The victory also spoiled Benilde’s bid to end a 22-year title drought.
Letran 81 – Caralipio 20, Paraiso 16, Monje 11, Reyson 8, Sangalang 8, Santos 7, Olivario 4, Go 4, Guarino 2, Javillonar 1, Tolentino 0, Bojorcelo 0.
CSB 67 – Corteza 14, Pasturan 10, Gozum 10, Oczon 9, Sangco 6, Nayve 6, Flores 5, Marcos 3, Cullar 2, Carlos 2, Davis 0.
Quarters: 24-21, 51-33, 70-54, 81-67.