Gozum COLLEGE of Saint Benilde’s Will Gozum tries to score off Letran’s Jeo Ambohot during their NCAA men’s basketball match yesterday at the La Salle Greenhills Gym. Photo courtesy of Ben Maniclang

Knights overcome Blazers

March 27, 2022 Theodore P. Jurado 411 views

LETRAN overcame a sluggish start to beat College of Saint Benilde, 67-63, to open its quest for a second straight title on a bright note in NCAA men’s basketball tournament a the La Salle Greenhills Gym yesterday.

Fran Yu, the Season 95 Finals MVP, went scoreless in the first half but took charge down the stretch and finished with 12 points for the Knights.

“It was tough,” said a relieved coach Bonnie Tan after his troops hurdled the season opener of the short single-round tournament.

Trailing by as much as 12 points, Letran took the lead for the first time, 60-59, on a Rhenz Abando triple at the 4:25 mark of the payoff period.

The Blazers last led, 61-60, before the Knights scored the next five points capped by a Yu free throw to gain the needed separation at 66-61.

“Ayaw magpatalo ng mga bata. Luckily, nag-step up yung mga veterans. Nag-step up noong bandang fourth noong kailangang kailangan,” said Tan.

The athletic Abando, a transferee from University of Santo Tomas, led the way for Letran with a game-high 19 points to go with eight rebounds, four blocks and three assists.

“We just met last February. We wanted to let Rhenz to play with his full potential but we are not rushing him,” said Tan.

Big man AJ Benson came through with 16 points and eight boards as CSB failed to give new coach Charles Tiu a winning debut.

The Blazers’ biggest acquisition during the long hiatus, Will Gozum made the tournament’s first basket, as the season hosts were in command in the first period, 16-10.

Behind Abando, Letran unloaded a 9-1 run to end the second quarter but CSB was able to hang on with a 33-30 lead at the break.

Lim was already in double digits in the first half for the Blazers with 10 points while Benson scored all of his six first half points in the first period.

Gozum, a transferee from University of the Philippines, debuted with eight points and four assists for CSB.

The scores:

Letran (67) — Abando 19, Yu 12, Caralipio 8, Sangalang 7, Javillonar 7, Paraiso 4, Fajarito 4, Mina 3, Olivario 2, Ambohot 1, Reyson 0, Guarino 0.
CSB (63) — Benson 16, Lim 10, Gozum 8, Nayve 7, Cullar 6, Carlos 6, Cortez 4, Davis 2, Lepalam 2, Marcos 2, Sangco 0, Flores 0.
Quarterscores: 10-16, 30-33, 49-55, 67-63