The Letran Knights nipped the University of Perpetual Help System Dalta, 77-75, in the Final Four to move on to the Finals for the second straight season in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Sunday at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
The Altas gave the Knights everything they had and even had a shot at forcing a rubbermatch. However, Jielo Razon missed a potential game-winning triple in the dwindling seconds, allowing Letran to extend its perfect run to 10 games.
High-leaping wingman Rhenz Abando matched his career-high of 24 points highlighted by a couple of crowd-pleasing slam dunks to go with three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Jeo Ambohot produced a double-double effort of 14 points and 14 boards for the Knights.
Letran will face the winner of the other Final Four duel between Mapua and San Beda in the best-of-three championship starting on Sunday.
Fran Yu had 13 points, including a free throw that gave the Knights a two-point lead in the final 7.4 seconds, five rebounds and three assists.
It was an end of an improbable journey for Perpetual, which hurdled Arellano University and College of Saint Benilde in the play-in stage to arrange a semifinal duel with Letran.
The Altas almost pulled it off without forward Kim Aurin, who missed the second straight game due to chickenpox.
Razon led Perpetual with 21 points, 11 rebounds and four assists while Jeff Egan added 14 points, four assists and two steals for Perpetual.
Meanwhile, the San Beda Red Lions pulled off a 73-67 win over the Mapua University Cardinals to forge a winner-take-all match for the last finals slot.
With the game tied at 64-all, Peter Alfaro, Ralph Penuela, and Cebuano JB Bahio stepped up and made clutch shots to keep the Red Lions’ bid for another finals appearance alive. First, Alfaro canned a corner triple which was followed by a difficult layup by Penuela for a 69-64 lead.
Bahio, a native of Olango Island, then added another basket to give San Beda plenty of breathing room. The University of Southern Philippines Foundation product almost had a double-double with nine points and 13 rebounds.