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Knights oust Pirates, face Red Lions in NCAA finals


Games Tuesday

(Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City)

1 p.m. – San Beda vs Lyceum (Jrs)

4 p.m. – San Beda vs Letran (Srs)

Letran found a perfect time to beat Lyceum.

With the last finals berth at stake, the Knights outlasted the Pirates, 92-88, in the second stage of the stepladder semis and secured the right to face defending champion San Beda in the NCAA finals Friday at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.

Letran celebrates the shot of Jerrick Balanza in the NCAA stepladder match against Lyceum at Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay, November 8, 2019 (Rio Deluvio)

Letran players and supporters celebrate the shot of Jerrick Balanza in the NCAA stepladder match against Lyceum at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay. Far left is Fran Yu who scored 20 points. (Rio Deluvio)

Fran Yu, a second year point guard, anchored Letran’s attack as he collected 20 points with five rebounds and six assists as the Knights claimed a finals slot for the first time in four years.

With the Knights protecting a one-point lead, 67-66, the 5-foot-9 Yu led a 19-9 Letran run capped by a Larry Muyang layup that gave them an 88-77 advantage with 2:44 remaining in the game.

Lyceum, a finalist the last two seasons and has won both games against Letran during the elimination round, came within three points 90-87 behind veteran guard Jaycee Marcelino.

However, the Knights answered with a Muyang layup to make it 92-87, 18.1 seconds to play.

Muyang, a third year center, also delivered big for Letran as he collected 19 points with nine boards as he held his own in his battle in the middle against Cameroonian center Mike Nzeusseu of Lyceum.

Bonbon Batiller and Jerrick Balanza, two of the team’s graduating players this summer, also came through with double digit scores for the Knights – the former had 13 points while the latter added 11 points.

Letran’s first year coach Bonnie Tan said it was the effort of his players, which carried the team back to the finals for the first time since winning it all during the 2015 season against San Beda.

“I give it to my veterans, lalo sa mga outgoing players ko,” said Tan, NorthPort’s team manager in the PBA. “They want to prove something na hindi nila na-prove last year… they never give up.”

“Breaks of the game, with their effort and determination. Nakaka-lungkot lang kailangan talunin yung former team ko,” added Tan, who coached Lyceum for a couple of season after the school joined the NCAA in 2013.

LETRAN 92 – Yu 20, Muyang 19, Batiller 13, Balanza 11, Reyson 6, Mina 5, Sangalang 5, Balagasay 4, Ular 4, Caralipio 2, Javillonar 2, Ambohot 1, Olivario 0.

LYCEUM 88 – Marcelino J.C.  26, Nzeusseu 19, David 11, Caduyac 5, Marcelino J.V. 5, Navarro 5, Tansingco 4, Ibañez 4, Remulla 4, Santos 3, Guinto 2, Valdez 0.

Quarters: 20-26; 44-40; 67-66; 92-88.