Letran showed its championship poise down the stretch as the Knights slipped past the St. Benilde Blazers, 81-75, to take Game 1 of the NCAA men’s basketball finals.
Louie Sangalang dropped a career-high 24 points and 10 rebounds to power the Knights, who will aim for a third straight crown in Game 2 on December 11.
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And then there were two.
After dispatching their respective foes in contrasting Final Four finishes, the College of St. Benilde (CSB) Blazers and the defending champion Letran Knights now brace for an all-out war in Game 1 of their best-of-three finals series on Sunday, December 4 in the NCAA Season 98 men’s basketball tournament.
The Blazers, who entered the Final Four as the No. 1 seed, narrowly escaped the fourth-seeded San Beda Red Lions, 62-61, to punch their first NCAA finals ticket since 2002, while the three-peat seeking Knights overpowered the LPU Pirates, 67-58, to book their third straight trip to the tournament’s biggest stage.
For CSB, expect big man Will Gozum, who is posting monster numbers of 17.2 points and 9.6 rebounds on 53% shooting to show the way and prove why he is the leading MVP candidate in Season 98.
Also look for Migs Oczon, Miggy Corteza, JC Cullar, and James Pasturan, among others, to backstop Gozum and step up to the plate for the Blazers as they try to put an end to the Knights’ two-year title reign and capture their first NCAA crown since 2000.
On the other side, count on Letran to flex its championship experience and rely on its well-balanced attack on offense, where four players are averaging double figures in scoring.
Expect Fran Yu, who is averaging a team-best 11.3 points and 4.6 assists, to steady the ship for the Knights in this finals series, while bank on center Louie Sangalang to hold his own down low and contain the top MVP candidate Gozum.
Aside from Yu and Sangalang, King Caralipio and Brent Paraiso will also need to continue their solid play and maintain their double-digit scoring numbers as the Knights gun for a third straight championship.
Game time is 3 pm.