MANILA, Philippines -- Colegio de San Juan de Letran recovered from a slow start, and made a tough defensive stand in the closing seconds to hack out a 91-89 triumph over Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) on Tuesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Ato Ular denied a potential game-tying shot by Renz Gonzales inside the final 12 seconds, and after two bricked charities by Bonbon Batiller, Gonzales misfired on a triple that could have won the game for the Generals.
The thrilling result gave Letran its fourth win in a row after losing their season-opener to Lyceum of the Philippines University. The Generals, meanwhile, absorbed a second straight defeat to drop to 1-3.
"'Yung convincing win, hindi pa rin namin makuha," lamented Letran coach Bonnie Tan, as his team's four wins have an average margin of six points.
"Hinahanap pa namin 'yung perfect combinations, perfect game ng Letran, para makakuha ng magandang panalo," he added.
Jerrick Balanza led the way for the Knights with 22 points, while Ular had 19 points, 9 rebounds, and his game-saving block. Batiller had 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting, while Larry Muyang had his strongest game of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
The Knights trailed, 48-38, at the half after allowing EAC to shoot over 53% from the field, but recovered with a huge third quarter that saw them outscore the Generals, 30-17.
They led, 79-69, with six minutes left off a nifty jumper by Batiller. Letran remained in control, 88-78, with 2:09 left off an Ular bucket, but Marwin Taywan refused to let EAC go down without a fight. He nailed a triple, answered a Balanza lay-up with another long-range bomb, then drew a foul on Fran Yu while taking yet another shot from the outside.
Taywan made all three free throws, making it a one-possession game, 90-87, with 58.2 seconds to go. The Generals got another opportunity when Balanza committed a turnover, and Jethro Mendoza made it a one-point game with a lay-up.
Batiller kept the window open for the Generals when he made just one of two free throws, but Ular was there to save the day as he rejected Gonzales' attempt at a floater.
EAC had one last chance after Batiller bricked two free throws, but Gonzales was again off the mark from beyond the arc as time expired.
"Andoon pa rin ang run ng EAC. Ayaw magpatalo," said Tan, who praised the coaching of EAC's first-year head coach, Oliver Bunyi.
Taywan finished with 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting, while Gonzales had 13 points, and JP Maguliano scored 10 markers on top of 7 rebounds. Mendoza was limited to 5 points on 2-of-10 shooting.
LETRAN 91 - Balanza 22, Ular 19, Batiller 17, Muyang 16, Yu 8, Mina 5, Caralipio 2, Ambohot 1, Javillonar 1, Olivario 0, Reyson 0, Sangalang 0, Balagasay 0
EAC 89 - Taywan 25, Gonzales 13, Maguliano 10, Luciano 8, Dayrit 7, Tampoc 6, Mendoza 5, Martin 5, Gurtiza 2, De Guzman 2, Boffa 2, Corilla 2, Cadua 2
Quarter scores: 15-20, 38-48, 68-65, 91-89.
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