MANILA, Philippines – The two-time defending champion Letran Knights booked their third straight trip to the NCAA Finals after dispatching the LPU Pirates, 67-58, in the Final Four of the Season 98 men’s basketball tournament at the FilOil EcoOil Centre on Tuesday, November 29.
With the hard-earned victory, the Knights set up a highly anticipated championship showdown with the top-seeded CSB Blazers, who escaped the San Beda Red Lions earlier on Tuesday to clinch a finals berth for the first time since 2002.
Fran Yu led the Knights in the scoring department with 11 points, while King Caralipio delivered an all-around outing of 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Louie Sangalang and Brent Paraiso, meanwhile, added 9 points each for Letran, which is gunning for its third consecutive NCAA crown.
After a tight first half between both squads, where LPU only trailed by 2, 28-30, Letran stepped on the gas and created a 7-point separation late in the third quarter, 50-43, thanks to back-to-back triples by Tom Olivario.
The Pirates, however, managed to stay within striking distance, tying the game back at 50-all at the 8:40 mark of the final period, off a three-pointer by Mclaude Guadaña.
Unfortunately for LPU, Letran showed its championship composure down the stretch as it went on a 15-5 run, capped by a Paraiso floater, to extend the Knights’ lead to double figures and put the Pirates away for good, 65-55.
Enoch Valdez paced the Pirates with a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Guadaña added 14 markers on 3-of-7 shooting from long distance.
Game 1 of the best-of-three finals between Letran and CSB is on Sunday, December 4, at 3 pm.
Letran 67 – Yu 11, Caralipio 10, Paraiso 9, Sangalang 9, Javillonar 8, Reyson 7, Olivario 6, Monje 4, Go 3, Ariar 0, Guarino 0.
LPU 58 – Valdez 15, Guadana 14, Bravo 6, Larupay 6, Montano 5, Umali 3, Penafiel 3, Navarro 2, Barba 2, Vinoya 1, Villegas 1, Cunanan 0.
Quarters: 13-17, 30-28, 50-45, 67-58.