|NCAA 91 FINALS|
(Thumbnail from PLDT Twitter Account)
It took five extra minutes, but the boys from Intramuros managed to pull through.
Colegio de San Juan de Letran is back on top of the NCAA mountain when it defeated arch rival San Beda College, 85-82 in overtime inside a packed SM Mall of Asia Arena Thursday evening, October 29, for the right to be called champions of Season 91 men’s basketball tournament.
Both teams were neck and neck throughout three quarters but Letran went berserk from beyond the arc in the payoff period, two of which came from graduating players Kevin Racal and Mark Cruz to give the Knights an eight point cushion, 75-67.
But the mighty Red Lions would not go down without a fight as Baser Amer spearheaded a big run to cut the deficit to two, 73-75 with 25 seconds remaining. Needing one more stop to stretch the ball game, Amer came up huge on the defensive end when he stole the ball and converted on the other end for the easy deuce to cap off an 8-0 run.
The Knights had one more shot to seal the championship but Kevin Racal’s attempt from the baseline was nowhere close as the contest went into overtime.
It was a battle of grit and determination between the two distinguished schools in the extra session until the dying moments.
Jomari Sollano ended up being the huge difference maker by scoring four points with less than half a minute to go in overtime. Mark Cruz then split his charities after a double lane violation was called and the possession arrow being ruled in favor of the Knights as they held on to an 85-82 lead.
Down to three seconds and with the length of the floor to go, Art Dela Cruz dribbled and hoisted one from half court but to no avail as the blue side of the court from a crowd of 20,158 cheered in jubilation as the final buzzer sounded.
It is Letran’s 17th men’s basketball title and the first since 2005 in the country’s oldest collegiate league.
“Thank you to the Letran community. Para sa inyo ‘to. Tama na yung sakit,” said head coach Aldin Ayo, who was part of the Knights’ 1999 team that also took the crown.
As for San Beda, its dream of making an unprecedented six-peat will come to a screeching halt. Several key players, including Baser Amer, Art dela Cruz, and Ola Adeogun, have all their playing years used up.
Mark Cruz was hailed as the Finals MVP. The diminutive point guard, who will be playing for the Star Hotshots in the pros, recorded 14 points, six rebounds, and seven assists.