Brent Paraiso and Fran Yu formed a deadly duo and took charge for defending champion Letran, dealing much of the damage to hack out an 81-75 win against College of St. Benilde in the NCAA Season 98 men’s basketball tournament Friday, Sept. 23, at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan City.
Paraiso dropped 25 points and four steals while Yu did an all-around effort and hauled 12 points, nine rebounds, six assists, and six steals as the Knights improved to a 2-1 record.
Letran showed defensive masterclass late in the payoff period and pulled off key stops behind the efforts of Louie Sangalang and King Caralipio to propel Letran and hand CSB its first loss of the season.
Prior to the match, Knights head coach Bonnie Tan imposed a challenge to his wards not to repeat the same mistakes again after learning their lessons in their 72-69 upset loss against the Arellano Chiefs last Sept. 18.
“‘Yong game against Arellano talagang ano sa amin, very frustrated ‘yong team. Ayaw nga lang namin sana maulit,” said Tan as Letran took its time to regroup following that loss.
Paraiso and Sangalang, for their part, expressed satisfaction with how things went according to plan especially on the defensive end.
“Siyempre masaya kami kasi naka-bounce back kami. Pinakita namin ‘yong totoong character ng mga Letranista,” added Paraiso.
Paolo Javillonar and Kobe Monje also contributed 10 points each for Letran.
The Knights averted a fourth quarter meltdown following the Blazers’ 9-2 run with a minute left, cutting down their deficit to two points only, 77-75.
But Yu steadied the ship for Letran after zooming in to the basket and went for the layup to retake a four-point lead with 54.1 ticks left.
JC Cullar could have changed the course for the Blazers but he missed a three-pointer in the ensuing play before Javillonar was granted a free throw off a Will Gozum foul.
Despite getting the next ball possession, Paraiso, trying to force himself inside the paint, committed a double-dribbling violation which pumped life for the embattled Blazers.
But Sangalang showed his late-game heroics and blocked Gozum’s attempt with 25 seconds to go before helping Caralipio take the steal from Miguel Corteza in the next inbound play.
As chaos ensued, Kurt Reyson and Paraiso iced the game with respective split free throws of their own.
Gozum paced St. Benilde with 23 points and 10 rebounds, Corteza added 18 points and seven rebounds, while Robi Nayve and Ladis Lepalam chipped in 10 points each as the Blazers absorbed their first loss in four games.