DEFENDING back-to-back champion Letran extended its winning streak to three games as it downed season host Emilio Aguinaldo College, 72-68, in the NCAA Season 98 men's basketball tournament Wednesday at the FilOil EcoOil Centre in San Juan City.
Letran forward King Caralipio finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, while fellow wingman Brent Paraiso contributed 15 points and nine boards for the three-peat seeking Knights.
Letran finished its first round elimination round campaign with a 6-3 record.
However, the team needed to execute key plays down the stretch to beat EAC.
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Down by five points, 70-65, the General's Mac Balowa buried a three-pointer that trimmed the deficit to just two points, 68-70, with 1:04 left in the game.
EAC forced Letran to a turnover as Caralipio committed a traveling violation, but forward Allen Liwag missed a three-point shot that could have given the General the lead.
The Generals had a chance to tie the game following a missed jumper by Letran point guard Fran Yu, but they failed to do that when JP Maguliano lost control of the ball while driving to the basket.
Kurt Reyson converted two free throws with 4.1 seconds left that sealed the win for the Knights.
Paraiso said it was all about the team's determination and will to win that prevailed in the endgame.
“Sinabi namin noong timeout na huwag kami bibitaw, laban lang tayo hanggang sa dulo,” said Paraiso. “Last game na kasi ng first round, saka mahaba ang pahinga para masarap ang pahinga namin.”
“Iyon ang iniisip namin coming into this game. Magta-trabaho pa rin kami in this break. Hopefully, in the upcoming games, sana manalo kami at magtuloy-tuloy pa,” added Paraiso.
Liwag led EAC with 20 points and seven rebounds, Adam Doria had 17 points, and Balowa finished with 15 points for the Generals who remained winless with a 0-8 record.
EAC is the only team with no win so far this season.
EAC plays San Sebastian College-Recoletos on Friday before the league takes a break for its All-Star Game on Saturday.
The second round of the elims starts on Sunday.
Letran (72): Caralipio 16, Paraiso 15, Reyson 13, Yu 7, Monje 6, Javillonar 5, Santos 4, Sangalang 2, Olivario 2, Go 2, Bautista 0, Guarino 0.
EAC (68): Liwag 20, Ad. Doria 16, Balowa 15, Bajon 6, Maguliano 6, Cosejo 4, Angeles 1, Luciano 0, Quinal 0, An. Doria 0, Umpad 0, Bacud 0, Dominguez 0.
Quarterscores: 28-18, 43-37, 58-54, 72-68.
Games Tomorrow (Filoil EcoOil Centre): 3 p.m. San Sebastian vs EAC
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