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Letran ends San Beda's dream run in sour note, wins NCAA title

MANILA -- Letran gave another reminder that it's not about how you start strong but to end strong.

The Knights completely spoiled the San Beda Red Lions' dream run in the NCAA men's basketball tournament after clinching the championship with an 81-79 win in the final game of the best-of-three finals at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay on Tuesday.

Letran actually put up strong finishes in each quarter.

Trailing, 12-19, midway through the first quarter, the Knights finished the period on a 14-5 run to take a 26-24 lead.

After the Red Lions went on a 9-0 run to force a 37-all tie in the second period, the Knights closed out the frame on a 7-1 run to go up, 44-38, at halftime.

Letran then went on a breakaway late in the third, scoring seven unanswered points despite losing Christian Balagasay due to five fouls to open its largest lead at 13, 69-56.

However, San Beda went on a 14-2 run to come to within three, 70-71, to start the fourth.

The Knights did not go down without a fight as Evan Nelle knocked down back-to-back triples including one from way, way out that cut Letran’s lead, 81-79, with 11.5 seconds left.

The Red Lions got the last possession after Calvin Oftana forced a jump ball against Fran Yu with 5.4 seconds to go but Nelle’s supposed game-winning three-point attempt was partially blocked as time expired.

Graduating wingman Jerrick Balanza put up 27 points, seven rebounds, and three assists for Letran, which clinched its 18th championship in the league.

Bonbon Batiller added 19 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

Fran Yu, who took over for the newly crowned champion in the first two games, only had eight markers in Game 3, but he too had five boards, seven dimes, and three swipes, enough for him to be named the Most Valuable Player of the series.

Donald Tankoua put up 22 points, seven rebounds, and one assist for San Beda, which failed to win the title despite an 18-0 sweep in the eliminations. (PNA)

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