Letran nears NCAA crown

Photo courtesy of NCAA

Letran College nailed timely three-pointers down the stretch to complete a dramatic comeback and shock La Salle Green Hills, 85-81, in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 98 juniors basketball tournament best-of-three finals series on Monday at the San Andres Sports Complex.

After an ice-cold shooting in the first three quarters, the Squires finally found their touch in the crucial stretch en route to the victory that puts them a heartbeat away from ending a 22-year title drought.

The Squires can raise the trophy when they book another win in Game 2 on Thursday.

Still, Letran coach Allen Ricardo stressed that the series is far from over.

“It’s still an unfinished business,” said Ricardo, whose wards are hoping to duplicate the success of their senior counterparts.

“We still committed a lot of mistakes that we need to correct, especially in the latter part of the game. I’m not really comfortable at how we finished the game.”

June Silorio fired 27 points, seven rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block off the bench to lead the Squires attack while Andrei Gemao and George Diamante submitted solid numbers.

Gemao had a double-double performance of 21 points and 14 rebounds laced with five assists and three steals while Diamante filled the stats sheets with 12 markers, 17 rebounds, five assists and four blocks for Letran, who went 0-of-17 from the rainbow area in the first three period before hitting four crucial treys that decided the outcome of the match.

Protecting a slim 79-76 lead, Jonathan Manalili and Silorio nailed back-to-back triples for an 85-76 advantage with 2:45 left in the game.

It was enough gap to cushion the Greenies’ 5-0 fightback that came a little too late for the Renren Ritualo-mentored squad.

Manuel Pablo led five other LSGH players in double figures with 22 points and 19 rebounds.

Rod Alian had 14, Seven Gagate got 12 markers and 13 boards while James Ison and Christian Mesias finished with 10 each in a lost cause for the Greenies, who last won the crown in 2017.

The scores:      

LETRAN (85) — Silorio 27, Gemao 21, Diamante 12, Manalili 9, Alforque 4, Anabo 4, Baliling 3, Hugo 2, Navarro 2, Cruz 1.

LSGH (81) — Pablo 22, Alian 14, Gagate 12, Ison 10, Mesias 10, Rivero 6, Gomez 5, Romero 2, Zaragosa 0.

QUARTERS: 17-22, 41-44, 65-64, 85-81.

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