Knights, Blazers dispute NCAA title

December 19, 2022 Theodore P. Jurado 301 views

LETRAN and College of Saint Benilde clash for one final time as the two teams leave everything on the floor to claim the NCAA men’s basketball championship at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City today.

Tip-off is at 3 p.m. in the game to be simulcast on GMA 7 and GTV.

The Knights took the opener, 81-75, before the Blazers rallied to level the Finals series at one game apiece with a 76-71 victory.

Fran Yu, who was ejected in Game 2 for a disqualifying foul on Mark Sangco, will be sorely missed, especially with his leadership.

Coach Bonnie Tan is wary that Letran will take some time in the early goings to adjust playing without the Season 95 Finals MVP.

“Ang biggest challenge is playing without a leader sa loob ng court, paano kami manalo, paano mag-close out ng games sa endgame. Alam naman natin anong binibigay ni Fran Yu bilang leader namin and sa court sa endgame,” said Tan.

To boost their morale in training, the Knights were visited by some members of the previous championship runs led by Season 95 hero Jerrick Balanza.

Brent Paraiso, Louie Sangalang and Kurt Reyson will lead Letran as its eyes its first three-peat since 1982-84 and the 20th title overall.

The Knights have a three-game winning streak in Game 3s, having won the Finals decider in 2005, 2015 and 2019. Letran’s second consecutive title last May was a sweep against Mapua.

Eyeing their first championship since 2000, Benilde proved that it won’t back down on what its opponents have thrown, especially in Game 2.

“We just try to believe, really, that we can compete with this team. We talked about having to match their physicality, that we can’t let them bully us there. And I’m happy with the way they responded for most of this game,” said Blazers coach Charles Tiu.

The trio of season MVP Will Gozum, Migs Oczon and Miggy Corteza will banner Benilde, which is playing its first-ever Game 3.

For Gozum, he wants to achieve what Blazers legend Sunday Salvacion had failed to in his MVP season in 2002 – winning a championship.

“Hindi naman ibibigay ng Letran iyan nang madali sa amin pero kami, focus lang kami. Job’s not done for us,” said Gozum.

“Gusto naming makuha ‘yung championship para buong CSB community masaya and patuloy kaming suportahan,” he added.

Game Sunday:

(Ynares Center)
3 p.m. – St. Benilde vs Letran (Finals, Game 3)