Perfect season

Joey Villar - The Philippine Star
Perfect season
Letran coach Bonnie Tan gets the traditonal victory ride as the Knights celebrate their second straight NCAA basketball championship at the Filoil Flying V Arena.
Russell Palma

Knights sweep way to back-to-back crowns

MANILA, Philippines — There was no way Rhenz Abando would sit out the game that he had long dreamed of. That is why he made sure the left ankle he tweaked in Game One a week ago would heal in time for this one glorious moment.

And the high-flying Abando made every second count as he dished out a spectacular performance to power Letran to a 75-65 victory over a gutsy Mapua and a perfect season in the NCAA Season 97 at the Filoil Flying V Arena yesterday.

The University of Santo Tomas transferee was nothing less than electric as he powered his way to 14 points, 13 rebounds, two blocks and an assist that completed a two-game series sweep over a Mapua team out to end a 31-year title drought.

Instead, it was the Knights who basked in glory as they copped their second straight championship and 19th overall, or just three short of the league-high 22 titles by the proud San Beda Lions.

Letran achieved the milestone with perfection as they won all their 12 games including nine in the elimination round in this pandemic-shortened season.

But Abando almost missed this one as he was a game-time call coming into Game Two as there was no word on his sprained ankle he sustained late in the third quarter of their 68-63 win in the opener last week.

Everyone knew, though, that Abando would not let anything stop him from winning his first collegiate crown.

“This is special for me,” said Abando, who fell short in his quest of a title after his UST Tigers lost to the Ateneo Eagles in the UAAP finals years back.

The search is over now for Abando.

Abando made it a double celebration after he was awarded the Rookie-MVP plum before the game.

He was the fourth in the league to snare both plums next to Gabby Espinas of Philippine Christian University, Sam Ekwe of San Beda and Allwell Oraeme of Mapua.

Abando was also the first from Letran to win the highest individual honor since Raymond Almazan achieved the feat nine years ago.

With the exception of the late fight back by Mapua, Letran dominated the game from the onset and never really put the former in a position to steal the game just like in Game One.

Jeo Ambohot was later named Finals MVP.

The whole season though belonged to Abando.



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