MANILA, Philippines – Letran reasserted its mastery over the rest of the NCAA as the Knights completed a rare Season 97 sweep with a 75-65 title-clinching win over the Mapua Cardinals at the FilOil Flying V Centre on Sunday, May 22.
With the win for their back-to-back title romp, the loaded Knights completed a 12-0 cruise through the season, capped with a 13-point, 9-rebound performance from Finals MVP Jeo Ambohot, who is now bound for the PBA after being selected third overall in this year’s rookie draft.
Star transferee Rhenz Abando, who was crowned the NCAA MVP and Rookie of the Year just before the game, bit back the pain of an ankle injury, and finished with a 14-point, 12-board double-double plus 2 blocks in just 26 minutes off the bench.
Off a huge 44-23 Letran breakaway near the start of the second quarter, Mapua stayed focused, slowly chipped away at their deficit as the physical affair wore on, and came within 65-70 with 2:13 left in the final frame off a clutch Paolo Hernandez triple.
However, that would ultimately be the Cardinals’ last gasp on offense as the Knights took control of the final minute, with Abando netting 4 of the last 5 points to seal his first collegiate title, and Letran’s third in the last seven years.
“Of course, we’re very happy. This pandemic season is really difficult coming from more than two years vacant. I don’t know if we can say that it’s a happier season, but this is more difficult compared to others,” said Letran coach Bonnie Tan in Filipino.
“All of our games, we struggled, but our players really stepped up. All the challenges thrown at them, they overcame, and I’m happy for them.”
Hernandez, who was named the league’s Most Improved Player, paced the season-ending loss with 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists, while Adrian Nocum flexed his two-way skills with 14 points, 5 boards, and 5 steals.
Despite the setback, Mapua still wraps up a successful campaign after the Cardinals clinched their first finals appearance in 32 years.
Letran 75 – Abando 14, Ambohot 13, Sangalang 11, Caralipio 9, Javillonar 8, Reyson 7, Yu 6, Paraiso 3, Mina 3, Olivario 1, Fajarito 0.
Mapua 65 – Hernandez 14, Nocum 14, Lacap 12, Gamboa 10, Pido 7, Bonifacio 6, Mercado 2, Agustin 0, Asuncion 0, Garcia 0.
Quarters: 19-8, 39-23, 58-48, 75-65.