After three years of waiting, Rhenz Abando finally got to wear a crown.
With all his might, the prized transferee out of University of Santo Tomas nailed the telling blows that stopped a desperate Mapua University, leading Colegio de San Juan de Letran to a 75-65 win to sweep the NCAA Season 97 Seniors Basketball Tournament, Sunday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
The reigning Most Valuable Player scored eight of his 14 points in the final frame to give the Knights their first back-to-back crowns since 1998-99. The 6-foot-2 native of Sto. Tomas, Pangasinan also grabbed 12 rebounds.
” Of course, we’re very happy,” said Bonnie Tan as he gave Letran its 19th crown amid only getting to start bubble practice with his team last February. “Mahirap itong pandemic na liga coming from more than two years na bakante. I don’t know kung masasabi natin na mas masaya pero mas mahirap itong season na ito compared to last season.”
Besides Abando, Jeo Ambohot also had a fitting farewell to Letran, dropping 13 points and nine rebounds. He was hailed as the Finals MVP.
Dominant was Letran in the wire-to-wire win, going on a 19-8 start before taking a 21-point lead in the third canto.
However, the Cardinals found their groove when the Knights got too cocky. Back-to-back unsportsmanlike fouls by Fran Yu and Brent Paraiso — the latter being called for a disqualifying foul with 5:11 left in the quarter, helped cut the lead to 10 entering the final frame.
Paolo Hernandez and Arvin Gamboa found their touch as well, cutting the lead down to six, 68-62 with under three minutes left in the game.
That’s when Abando took control of his team that stopped the Cardinals from their tracks.
Louie Sangalang also had a hand in the win, tallying 11 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks while fellow frontcourt Knight Pao Javillonar got eight points and seven rebounds.
Hernandez, the league’s most improved player, led the Cardinals with 14 points, six rebounds, and five assists while Adrian Nocum had 14 as well.
Brian Lacap got 12 points. Warren Bonifacio struggled with foul trouble all game long.
The Cardinals will be intact for next season.
Letran 75 — Abando 14, Ambohot 13, Sangalang 11, Caralipio 9, Javillonar 8, Reyson 7, Yu 6, Paraiso 3, Mina 3, Olivario 1, Fajarito 0.
Mapua 65 — Hernandez 14, Nocum 14, Lacap 12, Gamboa 10, Pido 7, Bonifacio 6, Mercado 2, Agustin 0, Asuncion 0, Garcia 0.
Quarterscores: 19-8, 39-23, 58-48, 75-65.