Defending champion San Beda College and last year’s runner-up Letran College smashed separate foes to arrange another titular showdown in NCAA men’s basketball tournament Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Knights pulled off a big second half blast to carve an 85-58 win over San
Sebastian College, while the Red Lions exploded in the final half
to trounce University of Perpetual Help, 70-51.
San Beda and the 15-time titlist Letran clash in Game One of the best-of-three Finals series on Monday, in a repeat of last year’s finale.
The two teams will also be meeting in the finals for the fourth time.
“We are very happy with this win and we are back in the finals. We were having trouble in the first half because Olaide Adeogun was in trouble. But at least we were able to recover in the fourth quarter,” said Rome de la Rosa of San Beda.
Letran’s pro-bound Raymond Almazan and veterans Kevin Racal and Mark
Cruz worked on a solid defense and fluid offense to stamp their class on the Stags, whom they defeated twice in the elimination round.
Letran defeated San Sebastian, 74-69, in their first meeting on June 22 and repeated 75-68 in the second round on Oct. 12.
As expected, the 6’7 Almazan, a third overall pick by Rain or Shine in the recent PBA rookie draft, displayed his might by securing 23 rebounds, nine assists and seven blocks. His control of the boards enabled the Knights to stretch their lead to 25 points, 73-48, still 6:42 remaining.
Letran, which finished the double round robin elimination at second with 14-4 card, jumped to an early 17-10 lead, which was reduced to only five points, 32-27 going into the final half.