Knights Steal Game 1
Mark Sangalang of Letran (right) fakes off Damie Cuntapay and Clint Doliguez of San Beda in the Knights’ stunning win in the series opener yesterday.
Joey Mendoza
Knights Steal Game 1
Joey Villar (The Philippine Star) - November 13, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Letran put San Beda’s unbeaten run to a screeching halt yesterday, scoring a stunning 65-64 victory at the start of the best-of-three finals for this year’s NCAA crown at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Knights gave the Lions, winner of all their 18 games in the eliminations, a dose of their own defensive medicine to move a win away from their first NCAA title since 2015.

Game 2 will take place Friday at the same venue.

The Lions, installed as the favorites owing to their amazing run all season long, now have their backs against the wall, needing to win on Friday to force a deciding game.

San Beda, which is seeking a fourth straight crown, did not see action for 26 days and showed a little bit of rust in the series opener.

It was actually the first defeat in 33 games for the Red Lions since Aug. 21 last year when they lost to Lyceum, 73-66.

Fran Yu was once again the man of the hour for Letran as he came through with big plays on both ends to help the Knights deal the Lions the bitter loss.

Letran coach Bonnie Tan, however, said it’s not over yet.

“It’s just Game One. But we’re happy because it was really a tall order to beat a team that was unbeaten in 18 games entering the finals,” he said after the earth-shaking win.

Yu, who starred in Letran’s victories over San Sebastian and Lyceum in the stepladder semifinals, finished with 10 points, six assists, three steals and three rebounds, and kept the Knights together down the stretch.

He was all over the place – swishing a crucial triple when the team was down  by four points, completing a steal off Calvin Oftana and plucking the rebound off the latter’s miss from three-point area.

Yu went to the stripe with 2.4 seconds left. He muffed the first charity and intentionally missed the second to prevent the Lions from calling a timeout and executing a play.

Letran grabbed the rebound before the buzzer went off, triggering a wild celebration among the Knights and their fans.

“I just want to give it back to the Letran community for giving me a chance,” said Yu, who almost left the team this year.

Defense did the trick for Letran as it held the best three-point shooting team in San Beda out of its character. The Lions only made six out of 40 three-point attempts.

And from an average of 80.7 points in all their 18 wins this year, the Lions were held to 64 points.

“We took a gamble in the zone and it worked,” said Tan.

Earlier, San Beda ripped LPU, 94-80, to move on the verge of clinching its 23rd juniors’ championship.

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