MANILA, Philippines – The Letran Knights fended off a late rally by the San Sebastian Stags to escape with an 85-80 win in the knockout NCAA Season 95 men’s basketball stepladder semifinals at the Cuneta Astrodome on Tuesday, November 5.
Six Knights reached double-digit scoring in the win, led by captain Jerrick Balanza with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Fellow graduating teammate Bonbon Batiller added 14 markers, 4 dimes and 3 boards while Allen Mina chipped in 12 points in 17 minutes.
Letran now moves on to another do-or-die matchup with two-time finalist Lyceum Pirates on Friday, November 8, still at the Cuneta Astrodome.
“Isa lang masasabi ko, ayaw pa maglaro ng mga veterans ko ng last game nila,” said Letran head coach Bonnie Tan. “Gusto nila magpraktis pa bukas at di sila bumigay sa magandang pinakita ng Baste.”
(I can only say this: My veterans don’t want to play their last game yet. They still want to practice and they didn’t give in to Baste’s good game.)
Off a 14-point deficit, 63-77, with 6:58 left in the 4th quarter, streaky sniper RK Ilagan erupted with 8 straight points to trim the gap to 6, 71-77.
Despite an untimely battle with cramps on his right leg, Ilagan soldiered on and got the Stags within a point, 80-81, off a catch-and-shoot fallaway triple with 1:40 left in regulation.
However, a series of errors hounded San Sebastian in the waning seconds of the game. After King Caralipio drained an easy layup for the three-point lead, 83-80, with 59 ticks left, Ilagan was called for a backcourt violation in the next possession after being doubled at halfcourt.
The gutsy guard was then forced to sub out after cramping up again before graduating forward Alvin Capobres fumbled the ball with 35 seconds left.
Balanza then left an open window for the Stags after missing both free throws off a duty foul, but Fran Yu got the lucky bounce and was quickly fouled off the offensive board.
Yu then sealed the deal this time off two charities with 10 ticks to spare.
Ilagan obliterated his 26-point career-high and finished with 36 markers on a 12-of-20 shooting and 7-of-13 three-pointers in the heartbreaking loss.
League-leading scorer Allyn Bulanadi backstopped Ilagan’s herculean effort with 15 points, but was held to just 4 points in the second half to cap off his NCAA career.
Letran 85 – Balanza 15, Batiller 14, Mina 12, Muyang 11, Ular 10, Yu 10, Caralipio 9, Balagasay 4, Ambohot 0, Olivario 0, Reyson 0, Sangalang 0, Javillonar 0.
San Sebastian 80 – Ilagan 36, Bulanadi 15, Villapando 8, Calahat 7, Capobres 5, Altamirano 5, Desoyo 2, Sumoda 1, Cosari 1, Calma 0, Isidro 0.
Quarters: 23-20, 50-40, 69-59, 85-80.