MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE) Colegio de San Juan de Letran got its Final 4 bid back on track after holding off Arellano University, 97-84, in the NCAA Season 95 men's basketball tournament on Thursday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Bonbon Batiller scattered 18 points and 4 assists, Larry Muyang and Jeo Ambohot each scored 15 points and combined for 11 rebounds, while Allen Mina (12), Jerrick Balanza (11) and Fran Yu (11) all reached double-digits.
The Knights shot nearly 50% from the field and had a 39-23 rebounding edge, including 18 offensive rebounds that they translated to 17 second-chance points.
"Ang sinabi ko lang sa mga boys, hindi lang dapat gustuhin 'yung panalo, kung hindi isipin na hindi tayo papayag magpatalo. 'Yung desire to win, 'yun ang sinabi ko sa mga players ko," said Letran coach Bonnie Tan.
Coming off back-to-back defeats, the Knights appeared to be headed for another tough outing as Kent Salado piloted the Chiefs to a 49-46 lead at the half.
But Letran regrouped in the third quarter, outscoring Arellano, 34-17, to seize a commanding 80-66 advantage. The Chiefs shot themselves in the foot by committing turnovers, which fueled a 14-0 Letran run that turned a slim 56-55 deficit into a 69-56 lead.
Ambohot starred in the run, completing a pair of and-1 plays, while Muyang and Balanza also contributed buckets. It did not help Arellano that Salado had to sit a portion of the period due to foul trouble.
Salado's return sparked the Chiefs back to life, and he assisted on a Justin Arana three-point play that made it a 7-point game, 72-65, with under a minute left in the third period.
Letran ended the frame on a strong note, however, as Yu scored five straight points then assisted on a Mina triple to help the Knights take a 14-point cushion heading into the final frame.
"Sinabi ko lang sa halftime, it's a game of chess," said Tan. "We have four quarters. Lumamang tayo first quarter, lumamang sila second quarter, so may dalawang quarter pa na pwedeng laruan at pwedeng balikan."
The Chiefs did not go down easily, and they trimmed the lead to as low as 7 points, 91-84, thanks to two free throws by Art Oliva with still 1:27 to play. Muyang responded with an undergoal stab off a fine assist by Yu in their next play, however, and the Knights got a stop against Arana with under a minute left.
Mina proceeded to ice the game at the free throw line, as the Knights improved to 10-6 in the tournament. They are currently two games behind idle Lyceum of the Philippines University for the No. 2 spot in the league standings.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, failed to build on a victory against De La Salle-College of St. Benilde and dropped to 4-11.
Arana had 19 points, but also committed 7 of the Chiefs' 18 turnovers in the game. Salado finished with 18 points and 4 assists, and Alfren Gayosa scored 15 points. Unfortunately for Arellano, they could not recover from the Knights' third-quarter onslaught, and are on the brink of being ousted from Final 4 contention.
Letran 97 -- Batiller 18, Muyang 15, Ambohot 15, Mina 12, Balanza 11, Yu 11, Balagasay 8, Caralipio 4, Pambid 2, Ular 1, Reyson 0.
Arellano 84 -- Arana 19, Salado 18, Gayosa 15, Bayla 11, Oliva 11, Sablan 3, Espiritu 3, Concepcion 2, Talampas 2, Alcoriza 0, Santos 0.
Quarter scores: 28-21, 46-49, 80-66, 97-84.
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