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Letran beats La Salle Antipolo, clinches BBI U-14 crown

The Letran Squires pose after winning the championship.

MANILA, Philippines – No way was Letran supposed to win this. The La Salle Antipolo Voyagers were not only too good, but they looked imperious heading into the finals of the Under-14 Division of the Smart Breakdown Basketball Invitationals’ Idol Mo Philippine Cup at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center in Quezon City.

The Voyagers went undefeated heading into the finals, 8-0. They had top big man Enzi Cruz and league Most Valuable Player Ernest John Geronimo, and they previously handled the Squires in the elimination round winning by six. If Letran was thought to have a chance to win, they would have to be on target from the outside, their traditional strength. La Salle Antipolo’s game was inside.

By game’s end, a shocking 64-56 win by Letran, it was the Squires who had their way inside. The Squires, led by a big man with an outside gunner’s name Ray Allen Maglupay, battled LAA’s Cruz to a standstill. He scored nine points to the latter’s 10 but won the rebounding battle, 11-8.

Alongide Squire power forward Ralp Angelo Cruz, who scored 16 points, Letran outscored La Salle inside the paint, 42-40. That doesn’t sound much until you consider that the Squires shot 60 percent inside the paint to the Voyagers’ 43 percent. That was greatly helped by Letran’s 16-6 difference in fast break points, where they resorted to the long pass when the Voyagers pressed.

“They got a lot of easy points,” lamented La Salle head coach Loel Nacolanga, whose wards only tasted the lead once, at 2-0. However, almost immediately, Letran peppered the Voyagers with a steady stream of medium and long-range shots by Bradley Palmes and inside points from Maglupay and Cruz.

The Voyagers came close late in the third period, 44-43, after a Joseph Espiritu trey. Letran’s Rich Hernandez, who during the half time break endured a tongue lashing from head coach RJ Guevarra after a poor play, earlier redeemed himself with a lay-up and a defensive gem on Espiritu in the next play that blunted La Salle’s momentum.

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Letran raced to a 15-point lead late in the fourth period after another breakaway layup by Palmes, 64-49. Time down to 2:21. The Squires held on for the win.

“We stopped (John Rey) Guevarra from getting his shots,” said Nacolanga of the nephew of PBA player Rey Guevarra. “But the others hit big shots. And we were poor in our transition defense. The younger Guevarra who made the Mythical Five Selection finished with a mere three points.

Cruz led Letran with 16 points while Palmes added 14. Abanico chipped in 11 markers.

For La Salle Antipolo, Geronimo despite injuring his ankle late in the game topscored with 18 points. Cruz was the only other player in double figures with 10 markers as he only had nine field goals attempts due to the defense of Letran.

Named to the Under-14 Mythical Five Selection were Guevarra and Abanico from Letran, Geronimo and Cy Bularin from La Salle Antipolo, and Paul Arnaldo from Rich Golden Shower Montessori Center. Arnaldo was also adjudged the Best Defensive Player. Geronimo was also named Best in Assists.

Cruz was named the Finals’ Most Valuable Player.

In the 19-Under Division, the AMA Computer College Junior Titans crushed the English Christian Academy White Eagles 87-69 for the championship. The Junior Titans jumped on the White Eagles from the opening whistle leading by a whopping 26-8 after the first 10 minutes of play.

ECA made a game of it in the second half and sliced what was once an imposing 31-point lead to 12, 64-52 after two free throws by JR Dela Rosa. However, AMA responded with a 13-1 run that squelched any hopes for ECA.

AMA’s backcourt combo of Karl Bautista and Carl Garcia where just too much for ECA. The duo scored 26 and 24 points respectively while forward JC Ortega added 16 points.

Junnel Morecho led ECA with 14 while Dela Rosa added 13. The White Eagles’ usual gunners of Dave Boje, Wilbert Lauzon, and Marce Velasco were held to a combined 14 points.

Named to the U19 Mythical Five were UPIS’ Jaggie Gregorio, AMA’s Juan Carlo Garcia, LSGH’s Migo Asuncion and Tyrone Umali and ECA’s Junnel Morecho. UPIS’ Polo Labao was crowned the Best in Defense while AMA’s Garcia copped the Best in Assists and the Season MVP plums. AMA’s Bautista was awarded the Finals Most Valuable Player Award.

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