LETRAN rode on its rejuvenated bench to hack out a 79-74 Game Two victory over San Beda on Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena to extend the NCAA men’s basketball Finals to a deciding game.
Making up for lackluster showings in Game One, Mcjour Luib and Von Jovi Tambeling provided quality minutes and conspired with fellow sub Ford Ruaya in delivering the key baskets down the stretch as Letran set the stage for a classic end to the best-of-three series.
The Knights lost, 68-80, in Game One on Monday.
The winner-take-all showdown is set Saturday also at the MOA Arena.
“It’s all about trust. They just grabbed the opportunity today,” Knights coach Caloy Garcia said of his role players.
Luib and Tambeling didn’t reach double figures in scoring, but provided ample help to stars Raymond Almazan, Mark Cruz, and Kevin Racal.
Cruz fired 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, where Racal had half of his 12 points, the same as Almaza and Ford Ruaya.
While the Knights’ bench came through, its San Beda counterparts failed to reprise their roles in the series opener, particularly Yvan Ludovice, who was only good for two points after scoring 11 points in Game One.
The Knights’ victory put to naught the torrid shooting of Art dela Cruz, who buried four triples on the way to a game-high 23 points on top of 12 boards for the Red Lions.
Unlike in Game One when they squandered a lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Knights were able to protect a three-point cushion at the end of the third quarter.
The Intramuros-based school scored eight unanswered points to turn a tied game into a 72-64 advantage with three minutes and 11 seconds remaining.
The Lions last threatened in the final 17 seconds when center Ola Adeogun hit a surprising three-pointer from the left wing off a timeout that cut the lead to 74-77, before Cruz retaliated with two charities at the other end to seal the deal for the Knights.
Letran (79) -- Cruz 16, Ruaya 12, Racal 12, Almazan 12, Tambeling 8, Luib 6, Nambatac 6, Gabawan 5, Belorio 2, Buenaflor 0.
San Beda (74) -- Dela Cruz 23, Adeogun 10, Dela Rosa 10, Amer 8, D. Semerad 8, A. Semerad 6, Abarcar 4, Sara 3, Ludovice 2, Mendoza 0, Pascual 0.
Quarterscores: 12-17; 32-37; 54-51; 79-74.