NCAA: Letran survives Perpetual to book Finals berth

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 08 2022 02:28 PM | Updated as of May 08 2022 06:12 PM

MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATED) The Letran Knights are headed back to the NCAA Finals after escaping with a tight 77-75 victory against the Perpetual Help Altas, Sunday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

Rhenz Abando was superb all game long and Fran Yu took charge in the clutch, as the defending champion Knights improved to 10-0 in the NCAA Season 97 men's basketball tournament. Letran will meet the winner of the other NCAA Final 4 match-up between the Mapua Cardinals and the San Beda Red Lions.

Abando tied his career-high with 24 points, while adding three rebounds, two assists, and two steals in 26 minutes. Jeo Ambohot had a double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds, while Yu had 13 points and scored Letran's last six points of the ball game.

The Knights seized control of the ball game in the third quarter, leading by as much as nine points before Jielo Razon sparked Perpetual's comeback. He completed a three-point play with 3:18 left to tie the count at 71, before Yu's jumper pushed Letran back ahead, 73-71, with 3:02 to go.

Razon scored again on the other end for another deadlock, but Yu gave the Knights the lead for good when he completed his own and-1 for a 76-73 count with just 2:21 left in the game. 

A Jeff Egan bucket gave Perpetual Help some hope, and they had the chance to take the lead when Mark Omega drew a foul on Louie Sangalang with 39.2 ticks left. He missed both charities, but the Knights gifted the Altas another opportunity when Brent Paraiso bricked a wide-open look under the basket with 16 seconds to go.

Perpetual Help raced to the other end, where Cris Pagaran misfired on a three-pointer that could have given them the lead. Off a duty foul by the Perps, Yu made just one of two charities. The Altas didn't have a timeout left, however, and Razon was well-defended on his attempt at a three-pointer.

Razon finished with 21 points, and Egan had 14 markers. The Altas gave the defending champions all they could handle despite missing senior guard Kim Aurin, who is still sick with chickenpox.

The loss ended an impressive run for Perpetual Help, as they had to win two do-or-die games in the play-in tournament in order to advance to the Final 4 as the No. 4 seed.

Letran last made back-to-back Finals appearances in 2012 and 2013.

The Scores:

LETRAN 77 -- Abando 24, Ambohot 14, Yu 13, Paraiso 7, Sangalang 7, Olivario 5, Javillonar 4, Reyson 2, Mina 1, Caralipio 0, Fajarito 0.

PERPETUAL 75 -- Razon 21, Egan 14, Abis 11, Pagaran 8, Omega 7, Boral 6, Barcuma 4, Cuevas 4, Martel 0, Kawamura 0, Sevilla 0.

Quarters: 20-17, 36-39, 62-55, 77-75.