MANILA, Philippines—Fran Yu's rookie season for Letran ended with him committing error after error against the Lyceum Pirates in the NCAA Season 94 Final 4.
Yu was thrown into the fire after veteran point guard JP Calvo suffered an ankle injury, and the young guard could not rise to the challenge. He struggled to deal with Lyceum's frenetic pressing defense, and the Pirates claimed a 109-85 win to advance to the finals, where they lost to San Beda in two games.
A year later, Yu made sure that history would not repeat itself. Now more cool and composed under pressure, Yu played one of his finest games in leading the Knights past the Lyceum Pirates in the stepladder semifinals.
He put up 20 points and 6 assists in their 92-88 win, while making big play after big play in the fourth quarter. In nearly 28 minutes of action, he committed just one turnover.
"Pagdating ni coach Bonnie (Tan), ang unang practice namin, nag-press break agad kami," said Yu after their victory. "Ayun ang unang-unang tinuro niya sa amin."
"Kaya kahit anong press siguro ang ibato sa amin, kaya naming lusutan," he said.
The result propelled Letran to the finals for the first time in four years, where they will take on defending champion San Beda in a best-of-3 series. The Red Lions advanced to the finals outright after completing an 18-0 sweep of the elimination round.
Yu was unflappable in the final quarter against Lyceum, when the game was up for grabs. He assisted on easy layups by Larry Muyang, then drilled a huge triple that helped the Knights claim an 84-72 lead. His confidence down the stretch drew praise from Tan, who touted the young guard's improvement.
"Veteran na 'yan," Tan said of Yu, who played in University of the East before finding his way to Letran.
"Ngayon, siya ay starter namin, in the running for most improved player. I'm happy for him," he added.
Having already dealt with RK Ilagan of San Sebastian and the Marcelino twins of Lyceum, Yu now turns his attention to his match-up in the finals with San Beda sophomore Evan Nelle.
Nelle has been a revelation for the Red Lions in Season 95, stepping into the shoes left by Robert Bolick and running the show for Boyet Fernandez.
Yu is more than ready to go toe to toe with Nelle.
"Pag mahirapan ako sa kanya, papahirapan ko din siya," Yu guaranteed. "Naging mag-teammate din kami niyan sa Under-18. Alam niya 'yung laro ko, alam ko rin ang laro niya."
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