Letran goes for finisher, first back-to-back championship in 23 years

Published May 21, 2022, 8:29 PM

by Reynald I. Magallon

Letran takes its shot at destiny as it tries to finish off Mapua and claim its 19th crown in Game 2 of the NCAA Season 97 Finals on Sunday, May 22, at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

Photo from GMA NCAA

The Knights look to immortalize their names in their school’s lore as they gun for back-to-back championships after 23 years or since Letran legend Kerby Raymundo guided the squad to two straight titles in 1998 and 1999 seasons.

Also at stake in the 3 p.m. showdown is Letran’s immaculate 11-0 record so far in the season.

A win against Mapua would complete a season sweep for Letran and put the team in the league’s history books along with the 2010 San Beda team and the 1994 San Sebastian squad which were the last teams to claim the title with spotless records.

Knights head coach Bonnie Tan, however, stressed that the team is keeping its eyes on the prize as he’s bracing for a fightback from the Cardinals who are looking to end their own 31-year title drought.

“Parati ko sinasabi before na we treat each game as a championship game di namin tinitingnan yung sweep,” said Tan.

A cause of concern for Tan however is the health of his top player in Rhenz Abando who failed to finish their 68-63 come-from-behind Game 1 win due to an ankle injury.

A possible fracture was already ruled out but Abando, who is also set to claim his Season MVP and Rookie of the Year awards before the start of Game 2, remained to be a game-time decision.

“In any team naman kung sayo yung top player ng league pag nawala talagang pilay na pilay yung team na nilalaruan ni Rhenz,” added Tan who is looking at his veterans in Fran Yu, King Caralipio, Allen Mina and Jeo Ambohot to step up in the crucial game.

Out to bounce back from the painful Game 1 defeat is Mapua which will lean Paolo Hernandez, Warren Bonifacio and Brian Lacap to force Game 3 next Sunday.