By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The Colegio de San Juan de Letran Squires outdueled the La Salle Green Hills (LSGH) Greenies to take Game 1 of the NCAA Season 98 Juniors basketball tournament grand finals, 85-81, last March 13, 2023, held at the San Andres Sports Complex.
Syrex Silorio stole the limelight during Letran’s huge win after neutralizing LSGH’s twin towers of Luis Pablo and Seven Gagate. The six-foot-three versatile big man erupted in the most perfect time of the playoffs to finish the game with 27 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.
The Greenies looked to blow the game wide open after extending its cushion to 12 points, 44-32, heading into the second half but Silorio’s timely baskets spearheaded Letran’s comeback at the start of the third period.
Silorio capitalized on his speed advantage against Pablo and Gagate and made a living in the perimeter after sinking his jumpers at will when they were storming back in the second half.
Answering the call to ice the game for the Squires was superstar Andy Gemao who filled the venue with several acrobatic layups against the tall frontcourt of the Greenies.
With the game deadlocked at 72-all with six minutes remaining in the final canto, Gemao dropped a momentum-clinching two-handed hammer dunk to help Letran retake the lead, 74-72.
Letran’s speed advantage was the biggest factor in the game as the taller and bigger LSGH squad looked exhausted in the final five minutes of the match.
Pablo, LSGH’s scoring machine, was already gasping for air with still four minutes left in Game 1 of the championship series.
Letran made it clear that every time they grabbed the board, the priority was to run and out-speed the slower Greenies which paid huge dividends in the second half.
“Medyo flat kami nung first half, but I just told the boys na just focus on the little things. Don’t stop playing defense, and sa opensa, once we forced them to a turnover or getting those defensive rebounds, we tried to push the ball. So kailangan lang natin makakuha ng momentum para magtuloy-tuloy. Sa awa ng Diyos, pagdating ng second half, nakuha natin,” said Letran’s chief tactician Allen Ricardo after the game.
Gemao backstopped Silorio in the scoring department and finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, and three steals.
On the other hand, Pablo registered another monster double-double performance from Pablo with 22 points and 19 boards but wasn’t enough to keep up with Letran’s intensity in the fourth quarter.
The Greenies will look to exact revenge as they seek to force a rubber match on March 16, 2023, in Game 2 of the NCAA Season 98 finals.