Letran beats San Beda in Game 3, wins first NCAA title in 10 years

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - San Beda College's reign atop the NCAA is over. 

Colegio de San Juan de Letran has set foot on the Promised Land once again after a decade-long championship drought by beating long-time rival San Beda, 85-82, in overtime on Thursday, October 29 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.  

Letran captured its 17th NCAA overall basketball championship by taking Game 3 of the best-of-3 finals series and spoiling San Beda's bid for a record-setting sixth-straight crown. 

Pro-bound player Kevin Racal and Finals MVP Mark Cruz served as the vital cogs in achieving Letran’s championship feat by rattling in 24 and 14 points respectively. Letran coach Aldin Ayo, who had won titles with Letran as a player in 1998 and 1999, was named Coach of the Year.

The Muralla-based brigade also had a solid game from Jomari Sollano, who hauled in a career-high 19 markers to go along with 7 boards and one block.

Despite his offensive meltdown in Game 2, Rey Nambatac made up for it in Game 3 by registering 13 points. 

San Beda's Art Dela Cruz, who was picked up by Blackwater Elite in the 2015 PBA Draft, flirted a triple-double performance as he finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists, one steal and two blocks for San Beda. 

Meanwhile, his teammate Ola Adeogun had a double-double showcase of 13 markers and 13 boards to come along with one steal and one block. 

Aside from Dela Cruz and Adeogun, San Beda’s Game 2 heroes Baser Amer and Javee Mocon had 14 each. 

Letran's hot start

Knowing that San Beda utilized press defense in Game 1, the Knights took complete control of the first period with their own brand of run-and-gun assault, which helped them to spark an 8-0 blitz to purchase a 16-7 cushion. 

Preventing to balloon Letran’s lead into double digits, Mocon and Michole Sorela had their share of defensive stops for San Beda with vindicating blocks, but Nambatac nailed his first basket since Game 1 and closed out the opening salvo with a 20-12 edge for Letran. 

As John Paul Calvo made it a 10-point Letran advantage at the start of the second canto, San Beda cruised to a 5-0 run that started from Pierre Tankoua’s basket and split freebies to AC Soberano’s two free-throws to bring back the deficit to single digit, 

The Mendiola Five relied on their trips to the foul line to keep the high-octane contest within striking distance as they converted 11 of their 15 free-throws.

San Beda tasted the lead in the second period courtesy of Roldan Sara’s trifecta with 1:14 left in the aforementioned quarter, but Nambatac’s freebies placed Letran ahead of its on-court rival by entering halftime with a 40-39 advantage.

San Beda didn't go quietly

As San Beda had the momentary lead in the third quarter with contributions from Mocon and Art Dela Cruz, Sollano exploded with three-straight buckets to position Letran with a 51-48 edge.

Although Mocon shifted the momentum on the San Beda side with two charities and a putback, Letran answered back with a 3-0 romp that capped off with a gutsy jumper by Kier Quinto to go into the fourth period with a one-ball possession lead. 

With Letran still running on the floor and dictating the tempo of the pace, the Knights denied San Beda from getting comfortable by answering every basket that the Red Lions sank. 

Racal silenced the raucous Bedan crowd with back-to-back triples with 6:08 left in the fourth, but San Beda kept on knocking on the door as Amer and Adeogun manned the red-and-white squadron’s frontline unit, 60-64. 

It appeared to be hopeless for San Beda when Racal and Cruz pierced scorching shots from downtown at the 1:53 mark of the fourth quarter that put up Letran by 75-67, but a surprising 8-0 barrage was ignited by Amer and Adeogun to force overtime, capped off with the graduating guard's score-tying bucket with 13.5 ticks left.

Amer and Mocon resuscitated the Red Lions in the extended period as the two stalwarts were able to invade the shaded lanes and picked up San Beda from the gutters with a 82-79 threshold.

Letran claimed back the lead with two free-throws by Racal’s freebies and Sollano’s two pointer, 83-82. 

As Sollano was fouled by Adeogun, the 6-foot-4 rookie only chipped in one of his two freebies, but when San Beda’s Nigerian reinforcement was about to get the rebound, Dela Cruz was called for a double lane violation.

With no other choice but to foul, Sara tagged Cruz with 3.7 seconds remaining in overtime, giving the 5-foot-5 pesky playmaker an opportunity to put the death nail in San Beda’s 6-peat campaign.

Scores: 

Letran (85) – Racal 23, Sollano 19, Cruz 14, Nambatac 13, Luib 5, Publico 4, Quinto 4, Calvo 2, Apreku 1, Balanza 0 

San Beda (82) - Dela Cruz 15, Amer 14, Mocon 14, Adeogun 13, Sara 9, Tankoua 6, Koga 5, Tongco 4, Soberano  2, Cabañag 0, Reyes 0, Presibitero 0, Sorela 0, Sedillo 0 

Quarter scores: 20-12, 40-39, 54-52, 75-75, 85-82. – Rappler.com