By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights are back in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament grand finals for the third-straight time after taking down the Lyceum of the Philippines University, 67-58, last November 29, 2022.
Letran survived an early outburst from Lyceum at the start of the final frame after the underdogs unleashed a quick 5-0 run to deadlock the game at 50-all.
With the game on the line and the Knights needing an offensive spark to answer Lyceum’s run, the duo of King Caralipio and Kurt Reyson led Letran midway in the fourth quarter.
Caralipio buried a huge three-pointer that helped the Knights retake the lead while Reyson extended their cushion to five after a sweet looping floater.
Lyceum was able to score a basket to stop their bleeding courtesy of Gyle Montano’s foul-counted play but the Knights closed the show with their suffocating defensive plays.
After a timeout off Lyceum’s basket, Letran quickly changed their defensive schemes and mixed their zone defense with a man-to-man approach that prevented the opposition from getting open drives to the lane.
The Knights then sent in the early exclamation point after capping off the final three minutes of the semifinal game with a 10-3 run.
Letran’s superstar Fran Yu delivered in the crucial game and contributed 11 points, three rebounds, and an assist backstopped by Caralipio who posted a double-double performance of 10 points and 12 rebounds.
“Syempre masaya. Thank you Lord na we’ve been given a chance to play again in the Finals,” said Letran head coach Bonnie Tan.
After their victory over Lyceum, the Knights will be facing the rejuvenated College of Saint Benilde (CSB) Blazers in the championship series of the NCAA Season 98.
The Blazers are coming off a hard-earned win against the San Beda Red Lions which ended their 20-year NCAA men’s basketball grand finals drought.
Both prestigious schools will be sharing the hardwood on December 4, 2022 in Game 1 of the finals to be held at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.