IN the much-anticipated clash between the two remaining unbeaten teams in the 2023 Manila Bankers Life-Pilipinas Super League 18-Under Battle of the Champions, it was NCR Leg champion Farm Fresh-Letran who triumphed, taking a thrilling come-from-behind 92-87 overtime win over Luzon king Pampanga-Pradera Theme Park to punch its ticket to the finals on Wednesday at Bren Z. Guiao Convention Center.
The Delta were on the verge of racking up their 14th straight win in regulation, leading 82-78 with 21 seconds remaining.
Coming off a timeout, Jonathan Manalili threw a precise inbound pass to Andy Gemao, who was at the left wing, knocking down a huge triple to cut the lead down to a solitary point.
A split on the stripe by Elijah Yusi and a couple of free throws missed by Rhyle Melencio led to an over-the-back foul by Veejay Pre on Manalili that sent Letran’s floor general to the line.
Manalili knocked down both free throws to send the game into overtime.
Syrex Silorio, George Diamante, and Gemao carried the momentum into extra time, giving their side a 90-83 lead — a cushion they would not relinquish to rack up their third win in as many games.
Gemao fired a game-high 27 points to go with four assists, three steals, and three rebounds while Silorio added 21 points and five rebounds.
Diamante hauled down 21 rebounds with 10 points while Manalili produced a line of nine points, eight rebounds, and eight assists.
Pampanga-Pradera, who fell to 2-1 in the national finals co-presented by SCD and Dumper party-list and supported by J Project Clothings, MDC, Bluesky Advertising, NET 25, Wcube Solutions Inc., Hotel SOGO, and Converge, can formalize its entry to the best-of-three finale on Thursday when it takes on 1-2 Max Ballers.
A loss by the Delta will result in a three-way tie between them, Max Ballers (1-2), and Sherilin Unisol City of Naga (2-2). The quotient system will apply in case this scenario takes place.
Yusi led five Delta players in double-figures with 23 points on an 8-of-12 shooting clip.
Justine Garcia and Dwyne Miranda chipped in 12 markers apiece while Pre and Melencio got 10 points apiece.
In the other game of the day, Sherilin-Unisol evened its slate with a 97-95 escape of Cagayan de Oro in overtime.
Peter Peteros once again shone brightly for the Naga-based squad with 22 points.
The Higalas, who bowed out of contention with a 0-3 record, were led by the 29 points and 13 rebounds of Rex Alcover.