Letran, Mapua begin title clash

Published May 15, 2022, 1:12 AM

by Reynald I. Magallon

Defending champion Letran puts the title on the line against a red-hot Mapua side in their best-of-three NCAA Season 97 Finals clash that begins today at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan City.

Mapua’s Randy Alcantara (left) and Bonnie Tan of Letran (NCAA/GMA)

The Knights eye a repeat of their championship success since winning the Season 95 crown in 2019 while the Cardinals look to reclaim the lost glory which they last won in 1991.

Tipoff of Game 1 is at 3 p.m.

Armed with potent weapons in Rhenz Abando, Jeo Ambohot, Brent Paraiso, Louie Sangalang and Season 95 Finals MVP Fran Yu, Letran is coming in as the heavy favorites in the title showdown.

The Knights remained undefeated so far in the tournament, sweeping the eliminations before making quick work of Perpetual Help Altas, 77-75, in the semis to book a return trip to the Finals.

Mapua, on the other hand, had to go through a rocky path toward its first finals appearance in 31 years, claiming the second seed and the twice-to-beat edge despite a tie with San Beda in the standings with 7-2 records.

The Cardinals took the outright semis berth by virtue of its gargantuan upset of the Red Lions, 68-54, in their elimination meeting.

However, Mapua still had to work for its spot in the finals after facing San Beda anew in the semis. The Season 95 finalist showed poise in their first game, pulling off a pulsating 73-67 overtime decision to force the sudden-death match.

Fueled by their hunger and determination to bring the title back to the Cardinals’ nest, Warren Bonifacio, Brian Lacap, Paolo Hernandez, Rhenz Nocum and Arvin Gamboa showed better resolve in the do-or-die game and took a 70-67 triumph to barge into the finals and set up a what seen to be an epic ‘Battle of Intramuros’ against Letran.

It will also be a battle of coaching wits in the sidelines as Bonnie Tan’s methodical halfcourt sets and slow paced game anchored on their league-leading defense face a blitzing run-and-gun style that feeds on accurate three-point sniping and fast paced tempo of Randy Alcantara.

 
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