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NCAA Finals: Lions roar back, foil Knights to force do-or-die Game 3

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By Waylon Galvez

Game Tuesday (Mall of Asia Arena)

1 p.m. – San Beda vs Lyceum (Jrs)

4 p.m. – San Beda vs Letran (Srs)

San Beda's Calvin Oftana, center, celebrates after making a huge three-point play with 19.1 second left in the payoff period during Game 2 of the NCAA Season 95 Finals at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, November 15, 2019. (MB Photo / Rio Deluvio)

San Beda’s Calvin Oftana, center, celebrates after making a huge three-point play with 19.1 seconds left in the payoff period during Game 2 of the NCAA Season 95 Finals at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, November 15, 2019. (MB Photo / Rio Deluvio)

San Beda kept its bid alive of winning a fourth straight title with a 79-76 win in Game 2 over Letran that forced a do-or-die in the NCAA Season 95 finals series Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Calvin Oftana, named the season’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) before the game, atoned himself from a lackluster performance in Game 1 where he scored seven points, dropping 17 points with 11 rebounds.

Oftana’s layup and eventual three-point play off a foul by Bonbon Batiller gave the Red Lions a 77-76 lead with 19.1 seconds left.

Letran had an opportunity to regain the lead coming off a timeout, but Batiller missed a reverse layup and Evan Nelle got the loose ball. As Nelle crossed mid-court dribbling the ball, play was stopped when a referee called a late 24-second shot clock violation on Letran.

A fuming San Beda mentor Boyet Fernandez questioned the call, but was given a warning for continues complaining.

San Beda head coach Boyet Fernandez celebrates in the NCAA Season 95 finals game 2 against Letran at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, November 15, 2019 (Rio Deluvio)

San Beda head coach Boyet Fernandez celebrates in the NCAA Season 95 finals game 2 against Letran at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, November 15, 2019 (Rio Deluvio)

Fouled by Battilier, Canlas-Kwekuteye converted a pair of free throws that gave them a 79-76 lead with 4.5 to play. Jerrick Balanza’s pass intended for Allen Mina went outside as time expired.

San Beda’s win leveled the best-of-three title series to 1-1 after Letran took the series opener with a 65-64 triumph last Tuesday. Game 3 will be played on Tuesday at the same venue.

“Letran did a good job. Fran Yu… Wow! We’re just lucky that he got cramps,” said Fernandez, referring to Letran’s prolific guard Yu, who had 23 points but had to stay on the bench in the final three minutes of the game because of cramps.

“A win is a win. I’m just relived we got over this game and won this one. They (players) really want to prove something. That’s what character is, everybody’s all against us (after losing Game 1).”

Kwekuteye led the Red Lions with 21 points, while Clint Doliguez added 17 points.

San Beda's James Kwekuteye gestures after he scores against Letran in the NCAA Season 95 finals game 2 at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, November 15, 2019 (Rio Deluvio)

San Beda’s James Kwekuteye gestures after he scores against Letran in the NCAA Season 95 finals game 2 at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, November 15, 2019 (Rio Deluvio)

The two teams battled back and forth with the Red Lions dictating the first half, taking a 37-25 advantage at halftime break.

However, the Knights staged a comeback in the third frame behind Yu, who converted three three-pointers in the period. His bank shot at the buzzer to end the quarter gave them a 56-53 lead going to the final frame, which led to chants of “MVP! MVP! MVP!” from the Letran crowd.

The 5-foot-8 Yu continued his hot shooting to start the fourth. When he drilled his fifth triple, he did a Michael Jordan gesture of ‘I just can’t miss’ as he shrugged and smiled – similar to ‘His Airness’ action during Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Portland Trailblazers.

That triple by Yu, followed by baskets by Balanza and Larry Muyang gave the Knights a 66-59 advantage with 7:38 to play. San Beda, however, answered with a 13-0 run that gave them a 72-66 lead with 3:54 left in the game.

Letran, hoping to closeout the series and win its 18th title, rallied back – even without Yu – behind Muyang, whose jumper gave the Knights a 76-74 advantage with 55.4 seconds to go.

Letran's Bonbon Batiller in the NCAA Season 95 finals game 2 at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, November 15, 2019 (Rio Deluvio)

Letran’s Bonbon Batiller in the NCAA Season 95 finals game 2 at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, November 15, 2019 (Rio Deluvio)

Then came Oftana’s heroics.

“Tiwalwa na lang sa plays ni coach. Game 1 kanya kanya kami,” said the 6-foot-4 forward Oftana. “Tiwala sa kanya, sa plays ni coach and we just played with all our heart in this game.”

Despite the win, Fernandez said he hopes that NCAA basketball commissioner Tonichi Pujante would review the game tape, particularly on the fouls called on Donald Tankoua, who was assessed three fouls in the first half and was called for his fourth personal midway in the third period.

“We just want the calls to be fair… that’s what we’re asking to the commissioner,” said Fernandez.

San Beda unloaded a 15-0 start with Canlas-Kwekuteye scoring six points, while Nelle adding five points. Letran finally converted a basket on a three-point play by Jeo Ambohol with 4:09 left in the first period.

The opening period ended with San Beda up 18-7.

Letran trimmed the deficit to only three points 18-15 when Batiller scattered four points in an 8-0 run during the first two minutes of the second period.

Letran's Jeo Ambohot rebounds against San Beda's Donald Tankoua in the NCAA Season 95 finals game 2 at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, November 15, 2019 (Rio Deluvio)

Letran’s Jeo Ambohot rebounds against San Beda’s Donald Tankoua in the NCAA Season 95 finals game 2 at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, November 15, 2019 (Rio Deluvio)

Tankoua committed his third personal foul with 7:27 left in the second quarter, and Letran tried to capitalize following a pair of free throws by Batiller to trim the lead to 20-17.

Clint Doliquez’s back-to-back three-pointers highlighted a 15-5 run by San Beda, which gave them a 35-22 lead. The Red Lions were up against the Knights 35-27 at halftime break.

San Beda shot 15-of-34 (44.12%) from the field in the first half, as compared to Letran’s 7-of-29 (24.14%). Also, the Knights had 11 turnovers, which translated to 11 points by the Red Lions.

Scores:

SAN BEDA 79 – Canlas-Kwekuteye 21, Oftana 17, Doliguez 17, Carino 7, Nelle 5, Soberano 5, Cuntapay 3, Tankoua 2, Abuda 2, Bahio 0, Noah 0.

LETRAN 76 – Yu 23, Muyang 17, Batiller 11, Ambohot 9, Balanza 9, Caralipio 7, Olivario 0, Ular 0, Mina 0, Reyson 0, Balagasay 0, Sangalang 0.

Quarters: 18-7; 37-25; 53-56; 79-76.

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