LETRAN finally figured out the San Beda puzzle, scoring a 64-55 victory over the Lions on Saturday at the jampacked Smart Araneta Coliseum to forge a winner-take-all match for the NCAA men’s basketball championship.
Kevin Alas, Jonathan Belorio, and Mark Cruz all delivered down the stretch for the Knights, who finally snapped a 15-game losing streak to their arch-rivals spanning five seasons.
“Monkey off our backs,” Knights coach Louie Alas said. “This (win) means a lot. We’re very happy.”
“Pero parang balewala ito pag hindi namin ma-follow up sa Game Three,” added the three-time champion mentor, whose wards face the Lions in the sudden death on Thursday also at the Big Dome.
The Knights were tested in the third quarter when the Red Lions dumped the ball frequently to Ola Adeogun and proved successful as they turned a nine-point first-half deficit into a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“(Ola) dominated the third. Lahat ng gusto niyang puntahan, napupuntahan niya,” Alas said of the Lions’ Nigerian import, who had nine of his team-high 12 points in the third canto. “Nilaro lang namin yung tendency niya sa fourth.”
True enough, the Knights turned the game around after locking down on Adeogun and gaining an unlikely offensive lift from Belorio, who scored a game-high 15 points on a perfect 3-of-3 clip from three-point territory, to go with 10 rebounds.
Trailing , 45-47, early in the fourth, the Knights regained the lead for good after a triple from Belorio with seven minutes and 27 seconds to go.
Alas' son, Kevin, bounced back from a poor endgame performance in Game One, capping off the Knights’ salvo with a three-point play that gave his team a 57-50 lead with 4:36 remaining in the game.
In all, the 20-year-old guard scored just 10 markers, but six of them came in the payoff period.
Three more Knights scored in double figures in Mark Cruz, Jam Cortes and Carlo Lituania. Cortes, who averaged just 2.5 points in the last three games, registered a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds, while Lituania had nine of his 11 in the second quarter when the Knights established a nine-point lead.
“Hindi ka mananalo sa San Beda kung isa lang gagawa, kailangan lima 'yung maglalaro,” the Letran coach said.
Letran (64) – Belorio 15, Cruz 12, Lituania 11, Cortes 10, K. Alas 10, Racal 2, Almazan 2, J. Alas 2, Luib 0
San Beda (55) – Adeogun 12, Caram 9, Amer 9, K. Pascual 9, J. Pascual 6, Dela Rosa 4, Dela Cruz 4, Koga 2, Lim 0, Mendoza 0
Quarterscores: 18-14, 37-28, 41-43, 64-55