Colegio de San Juan de Letran dethroned San Beda College via slim 85-82 overtime win in Game 3 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 91 men’s basketball best-of-three championship on Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Veteran Kevin Racal sizzled with 23 points while Jomari Sollano delivered 19 to lead the Knights to a 2-1 series victory. Letran took the series opener, 94-90, before San Beda bounced back with a 68-61 win in Game 2.
Mark Cruz contributed 14 markers and Rey Nambatac added 13 for the Knights, who survived five deadlocks and 12 lead changes.
“Nung nag-overtime, sinabi sa amin ni coach sa amin ito. Dun kami nabuhayan ng loob. Sinabi rin namin ni Mark na last year na namin ito kaya kailangan talaga naming magsikap para makuha ito,” said Racal.
Cruz finished with 17.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.0 steals in the series to earn the Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.
It was Letran’s first title since 2005, ending San Beda’s five-year domination.
Overall, the Knights nailed their 17th crown to stay as the second winningest team in the league behind the Red Lions – owner of 19 crowns.
Letran rookie mentor Aldin Ayo hailed the support of Letran community; school administration, the alumni and sports patron eight-time world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao. “To the Letran community, I hope you enjoyed the whole season. Tama na ‘yung sakit,” Ayo said.
Letran had 33-of-77 field goal shooting, converting 25 points off San Beda’s 31 turnovers.
In juniors, San Beda claimed its seventh-straight crown after blasting Arellano University, 70-61, in Game 3 of the their own championship showdown.
Germy Mahinay posted 15 points and 11 rebounds while Evan Nelle nailed 13 and Eduardo Velasquez added 12 as the Red Cubs roared to their 22nd title overall.
“Hindi naman namin binibilang. At present kung anong challenge ibinibigay sinusubukan namin. Last game nung Tuesday, walang pumutok sa amin. Marami kaming lapses, ni-review namin ‘yung game namin sa Game 2, nakita nila marami kaming lapses, natapos ‘yung game four points lang ‘yung ikinatalo namin,” Red Cubs head coach JV Sison said.
Joshua Tagala scored four points but hauled down 16 boards in 29 minutes of action.
“Fulfilling dahil pinaghirapan namin ito. I’m very proud of my boys they gave it all, all heart talagang kahit anong sabihin ko, they listen, they follow kaya nakakatuwa,” added Sison.
The 17-year-old Nelle, who averaged 14.6 points in the series, bagged the Finals MVP award.
“It’ feels good. It wasn’t on my head. I didn’t expect it, I’m just trying to control my teammates, pass the ball properly. This Finals MVP is just a topping. Coming into this game, I thought we should comeback, we should win this, no more losing,” said Nelle.
San Beda ended the series at 2-1. The Red Cubs won in Game 1, 76-68, while the Braves triumphed in Game 2, 72-68.