The Letran Knights continued their amazing run, advancing to the NCAA Season 95 finals to face their rival San Beda after outlasting the Lyceum Pirates, 92-88, Friday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Fran Yu was fearless in the clutch, pouring in eight of his 20 points in the final frame to lead Letran. The fiery guard added five rebounds and six assists to his name and took on the daunting pressure defense of the Pirates head-on. Larry Muyang had 19 points, missing only two shots of his 10 attempts, and corralled nine rebounds.
"They never gave up," beamed Letran coach Bonnie Tan, giving praise to his veterans for once again delivering in a do-or-die situation. "It's all about the effort and determination."
Letran gained the upper hand with less than three minutes to play after Muyang connected on the inside, giving the Knights an 88-77 lead. The Pirates countered with a furious rally to get to within three points, 90-87, after back-to-back hits from Jaycee Marcelino with 24 ticks left on the clock.
Marcelino was a man on a mission but his 26 points were all for naught for Lyceum. Mike Nzeusseu had a huge double-double of 19 points and 15 rebounds in his last game.
The Pirates were playing catch-up for most of the game as the Knights' defense and length bothered their offense. They shot 43 percent from the field but eventually lacked firepower from the perimeter to retake the lead.
Muyang squashed the Lyceum rally with another bucket underneath to provide a 92-87 cushion for his squad, just under 20 seconds remaining. The Pirates were only able to get a single point in the waning moments - a free throw from Nzeusseu - as they failed to make it to the finals after qualifying the last two years.
"I'm a bit sad that I had to beat my former team," Tan said as he coached the Pirates when they first entered the league.
Tan is now tasked to take home the title against a formidable foe in San Beda.
"Honestly, before taking the job, I know that this team left by coach Jeff Napa is a very talented team," the coach said about their expectations at the start of the season. "From the first day that I practiced in Letran, I kept on mentioning to them this is the best team that I've handled, talent-wise.
The Knights are back in the championship round for the first time since 2015 when they went on to win it all.
Game 1 of the NCAA finals will take place on November 12 at the SM MOA Arena.
LETRAN 92 -- Yu 20, Muyang 19, Batiller 13, Balanza 11, Reyson 6, Mina 5, Sangalang 5, Balagasay 4, Ular 4, Caralipio 2, Javillonar 2, Ambohot 1, Olivario 0.
LYCEUM 88 -- Jc. Marcelino 26, Nzeusseu 19, David 11, Caduyac 5, Jv. Marcelino 5, Navarro 5, Tansingco 4, Ibanez 4, Remulla 4, Santos 3, Guinto 2, Valdez 0.
Quarters: 20-26, 44-40, 67-66, 92-88.