LETRAN LIVES THROUGH ABANDO INJURY, OVERCOMES MAPUA IN NCAA FINALS OPENER
Colegio de San Juan de Letran inches closer to winning a second consecutive title after stunning Mapua University, 68-63, in Game 1 of the NCAA Season 97 men’s basketball finals on Sunday at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
The Letran Knights overcame a big challenge over the Cardinals, trailing Mapua for almost the entirety of Game One and losing MVP frontrunner Rhenz Abando in the third quarter but pulled off a come-from-behind win to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
Mapua started off strong in the early game with a 13-5 run and held on to it as they led by nine points after one and seven points, 39-32, at the halftime break.
Come the third quarter, Letran racked on a 9-2 run, capped by back-to-back buckets from Paraiso to tie the game at 49-apiece.
The Cardinals were able to respond scoring the last five points of the third and keeping the Knights at bay again.
Rence Nocum chipped in a huge three-pointer that gave Mapua a four-point lead, 62-58, with 3:30 remaining in the final quarter.
With two minutes left in the clock and still down by four points, Letran shifted into high gear to complete a pivotal 8-0 run highlighted by a go-ahead Jeo Ambohot short stab with 43.5 ticks left, 63-62, and capped with a Brent Paraiso dagger layup off a Fran Yu dish with 15.5 seconds left for a 66-62 gap.
The Knights were able to withstand the early exit of Abando, who suffered an injury late in the third period, but finished with 13 points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes and 37 seconds of action.
Paraiso paced the Knights with a solid all-around game of 14 points, five rebounds, and five assists as Sangalang also chimed in 14 points, seven boards, and two blocks.
Meanwhile, Warren Bonifacio top-scored for the Cardinals with 10 points, 14 rebounds, and two blocks while Arvin Gamboa added 10 markers.
Paolo Hernandez, whose hot shooting led the Cardinals early but was held scoreless in the second half to finish with eight points.
Letran 68 – Paraiso 14, Sangalang 14, Abando 13, Yu 6, Ambohot 6, Reyson 6, Javillonar 4, Caralipio 3, Olivario 0, Fajarito 0.
Mapua 63 – Bonifacio 10, Gamboa 10, Agustin 9, Hernandez 8, Lacap 7, Nocum 6, Mercado 5, Pido 5, Garcia 3, Salenga 0.
Quarters: 15-24, 32-39, 49-54, 68-63