By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights prevailed over the tough Mapua Cardinals team, 67-62, during the highly-anticipated rematch of the NCAA Seniors Basketball Season 97 grand finals.
It was the same atmosphere during the NCAA 97 tournament finals as thousands of supporters from Letran and Mapua flocked to the FilOil EcoOil Centre in San Juan City just to witness one of the most epic rivalries of the league.
From the get-go, a trade of offensive fireworks immediately treated all of the NCAA fans that came to watch as Letran’s superstar Fran Yu and Mapua’s Brian Lacap put on a show.
Every time Yu fired a three-pointer from way downtown, Lacap answered right back with his signature drive to the basket that woke up the Mapua crowd.
The match turned into a dogfight as both schools couldn’t hold on to their scoring runs as Mapua went on a disappointing offensive drought in the first seven minutes of the final canto.
Letran then capitalized on Mapua’s cold shooting as Paolo Javilionar answered the call and backstopped Yu in the scoring department.
However, the Cardinals had one final run and uncorked an 8-0 scoring that cut the deficit to just two points, 61-59, with 1:11 remaining in the game.
Coming to the rescue once again for the Knights is the calm superstar Yu who answered the call for the defending champions in the most crucial stretch of the game.
With 46 seconds left in the game, Letran went to Yu on an isolation play in the right elbow. After taking a dribble, the talented star hoisted a long trey that went in to give the Knights a two-possession lead.
Jopet Soriano attempted to mount a comeback for the Cardinals after scoring a quick bucket after Yu’s three-pointer but Kurt Reyson iced the game for Letran with two clutch free throws.
“Masaya. I’m happy with my players, lalo na sa mga veterans na nag-step up sa endgame. Ayun nga sinabi na yung composure andoon,” said Letran head coach Bonnie Tan.