MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE) Colegio de San Juan de Letran has clinched the third seed in the NCAA Season 95 Final 4, but not before the Knights were given a tremendous challenge by Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) on Thursday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The Knights trailed by as much as 19 points but found their footing in the second half for an 87-79 victory over the Generals, which gave them a 12-6 record at the end of the elimination round.
That means Letran will be the No. 3 seed in the semifinals.
Larry Muyang shone for the Knights, putting up 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting alone with 11 rebounds. Skipper Jerrick Balanza had 20 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals, while Bonbon Batiller had 14 points.
"Lahat gusto nasa Top 2, pero ito 'yung napuntahan ng team," said Letran coach Bonnie Tan. "Sinasabi ko lang sa team na it's not about 'yung start. It's how we finish the season."
"'Yun ang challenge namin, kung paano namin tapusin 'yung season," he added.
EAC was the better team to start the game, leading by as much as 19 points, 38-19, behind the hot shooting of Jethro Mendoza. The Generals maintained a 41-30 lead at the half, but the Knights recovered in the third quarter behind Balanza and Muyang.
They took their first lead, 52-51, off two charities by Balanza, but the Generals refused to fade away and were down by just one point, 56-55, entering the final quarter.
The game appeared headed for a tight finish when Marwin Taywan knotted the count at 58 with a three-point play, but Letran had other ideas. The Knights pounced on EAC's turnovers for a 15-3 run, which put them in control, 73-61, with under six minutes left.
The Generals was unable to threaten, as the Knights had an answer for every EAC shot.
Still, Tan was not pleased with how they started.
"Alam natin na we're part of the Final 4, pero it doesn't mean na hindi natin lalaruin ang last game natin. We get all the confidence going to the Final 4 by winning this final game," he pointed out.
Mendoza, in his final game, had 26 points to lead EAC. JP Maguliano added 13 points and 9 boards. Also playing their last game for the Generals were John Estacio, Dan Corilla, and Renz Gonzales.
EAC finished the season with a 4-14 win-loss record.
LETRAN 87 - Muyang 22, Balanza 20, Batiller 15, Yu 10, Ular 8, Ambohot 6, Reyson 4, Mina 2, Caralipio 0, Balagasay 0, Sangalang 0, Pambid 0
EAC 79 - Mendoza 26, Maguliano 13, Gurtiza 9, Taywan 8, De Guzman 6, Luciano 6, Estacio 4, Corilla 3, Martin 3, Cadua 1, Gonzales 0, Carlos 0, Boffa 0
Quarter scores: 14-25, 30-41, 56-55, 87-79.
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