Arellano University dealt reigning champion Letran College its first loss in three years as it eked out a pulsating 72-69 win in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 98 yesterday at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan.
Rookie Cade Flores was at his best, nearly posting a double-double to lead the Chiefs in snapping the Knight’s 14-game winning streak that started in Game 3 of Season 95 finals in 2019.
The last time Letran dropped a game to Arellano was in the second round of Season 92 on 9 September 2016 with Jio Jalalon and Kent Salado engineering an 83-74 victory.
Flores fired 18 points and nine rebounds for Arellano, who flirted with disaster before collecting their third victory in four outings.
With the Chiefs leading by five, 70-65, in the final 42.6 seconds, Louie Sangalang knocked down a put back in the final 29 seconds to pull the Knights closer, 67-70.
Arellano and Letran traded free throws with Jade Talampas making it 71-67 before Fran Yu knocked down two of his freebies to cut the gap to within two, 69-71, only 17.2 seconds left.
Then, Axel Doromal split his free throw in the final 15.5 seconds to give the Chiefs a safe three-point lead, 72-69, before watching Kurt Reyson muff a potential game-tying trey from the corner for the final count.
Arellano coach Cholo Martin said playing against the defending champions brought out the best in them.
“I told them it’s great if you face against the defending champion or any strong team, it will bring out the best in you,” Martin, whose wards outpaced the Knights with 16 fastbreak points, said.
“We just stuck with our system and had a chance to get a win.”
Letran coach Bonnie Tan said their failure to execute down the stretch doomed their chances against a solid, well-coached team like the Chiefs.
“We were outscored in the most crucial part of the fourth quarter and we failed to execute our game plan,” said Tan, who failed to draw a lucky break that is similar to their 101-97 comeback victory over Jose Rizal University.
Tan said that the last play was designed for shooters like Yu and Reyson, but they failed to buy a basket.
“Fran Yu and Kurt Reyson were tasked to take the three, but it didn’t go in,” he said, adding that they still have a lot of things to work on if they want to claim their third straight title.
“We still have to work hard.”
Aside from Flores, Doromal also shone finishing with 14 points, five rebounds and two assists while Wilmar Oftana had 13 markers, five boards and an assist for Arellano, which is looking to make a return to the finals.
Meanwhile, San Sebastian College won its second game of the season after surviving Mapua University, 57-56.
Romel Calahat tallied a double-double game of 17 points and 17 rebounds as the Stags picked up their second win in three games.
Rence Nocum fired 15 markers but still failed to save the Cardinals from suffering their second straight loss.
ARELLANO (72) — Flores 18, Doromal 14, Oftana 13, Abastillas 10, Menina 7, Talampas 4, Mantua 2, Mallari 2, Sunga 2, Tolentino 0, Oliva 0.
LETRAN (69) — Sangalang 19, Caralipio 16, Paraiso 8, Yu 8, Javillonar 8, Santos 3, Guarino 3, Ariar 2, Reyson 2, Olivario 0, Tolentino 0, Monje 0, Miclat 0, Lantaya 0.
QUARTERS: 12-11, 30-34, 47-56, 72-69.
SAN SEBASTIAN (57) — Calahat 17, Sumoda 7, Villapando 7, Una 6, Desoyo 5, Shanoda 5, Escobido 4, Felebrico 3, Concha 3, Altamirano 0, Cosari 0, Suico 0, Aguilar 0, Are 0.
MAPUA (56) — Nocum 15, Gamboa 12, Agustin 9, Garcia 6, Soriano 5, Salenga 4, Pido 3, Bonifacio 2, Cuenco 0, Hernandez 0, Mercado 0, Parinas 0.
QUARTERS: 19-15, 30-32, 42-46, 57-56.
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