NCAA basketball

Letran sweeps LSGH to end 22-year NCAA juniors basketball title drought

Martin Mendoza

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Letran sweeps LSGH to end 22-year NCAA juniors basketball title drought

NEW CHAMPS. The Letran Squires celebrate their NCAA juniors title romp.


The Letran Squires follow the footsteps of the Letran Knights in the seniors division after overpowering the La Salle Green Hills Greenies for their first NCAA juniors basketball title in two decades

MANILA, Philippines – For the first time since 2001, the Letran Squires are back on top of the NCAA juniors basketball tournament after overpowering the La Salle Green Hills Greenies in Game 2 of the Season 98 finals, 77-61, at the San Andres Complex in Manila on Thursday, March 16.

After seeing their big man Syrex Silorio step up to the plate with 26 points in Game 1, it was point guard Jovel Baliling who took charge for the Squires this time as he delivered a team-best 19 points built on 5-of-9 shooting from long distance. 

Jonathan Manalili likewise came up big for Letran with an all-around performance of 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists, while Finals MVP Andy Gemao – who is also part of the Mythical Team alongside LSGH big men Luis Pablo and Seven Gagate, San Beda’s Chris Hubilla, LPU’s Matthew Rubico, and Perpetual’s Amiel Acido – added 14 markers, 5 boards, 2 dimes, and 2 steals.

In contrast to their ice-cold start in Game 1, where they went 0-of-17 from deep in the first three quarters, the Squires came out firing from the tip-off as they immediately cashed in five triples in the opening period alone.

Baliling set the tone early and unloaded three of his five long bombs in the first quarter to help Letran seize a 21-18 cushion over LSGH.

Still leading by just 2 points, 28-26, with under three minutes left in the second frame, the Squires then stepped on the gas and finished the quarter on a 10-2 blast, capped by a Gemao layup, for a double-digit edge over the Greenies at halftime, 38-28.

The Squires, who followed the footsteps of the Letran Knights in the seniors division, never looked back from that point on as they coasted to their first NCAA juniors basketball crown since Season 77 – the team that was then led by former PBA standouts JC Intal and Jay-R Reyes, among others.

Letran spoiled yet another double-double outing by the tournament MVP Pablo, who wrapped up his juniors career with LSGH with 20 points and 14 rebounds.

Rod Alian chipped in 13 points in the loss, while Gagate posted his own version of a double-double of 11 markers and 18 boards.

The Scores

Letran 77 – Baliling 19, Manalili 16, Gemao 14, Silorio 12, Alforque 4, Hugo 4, Anabo 3, Cruz 2, Reyes 2, Diamante 1, Navarro 0, Datumalim 0, Paguiligan 0, Padilla 0, Cuajao 0.

LSGH 61 – Pablo 20, Alian 13, Gagate 11, Mesias 10, Ison 5, Villaver 2, S. Romero 0, R. Romero 0, Rivero 0, Zamora 0, Gomez 0, Hachuela 0, Zaragoza 0, Muyuela 0.

Quarters: 21-18, 38-28, 56-44, 77-61.

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