The Letran Knights struggled to keep the lead midway in the fourth period, but still escaped with a 67-62 triumph over the Mapua University on Tuesday in the 98th National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament at the FilOil EcoOil Arena in San Juan.
Fran Yu hit 15 points, including a triple in the last 46.7 seconds, handing the defending champions a five-point cushion and enough room to post their third win in four outings.
The Knights now share the lead with the College of St. Benilde Blazers and the Lyceum Pirates.
Yu then left the court on cramps, becoming the third player from the Knights’ side to leave the court at that point, after Brent Paraiso was a slapped a disqualifying foul, and Paolo Javillonar also cramped out.
Javillonar knocked in 14 points, but had to be stretchered out on cramps in the final 2:44, with the Knights enjoying an eight-point edge, 60-52, in their physically tiring encounter with the Cardinals.
King Carilipio and Kurt Reyson tallied eight points apiece for the Knights following their first back-to-back victory this season.
The Knights fought their way out of a 50-all deadlock behind a trey from Yu and Javillonar’s driving shot, taking a 55-50 edge in the last 7:19.
By then, the Cardinals lost one of their scorers, Jasper Salenga to his fifth foul in the final nine minutes of action.
Paraiso was sent out of the game in the remaining 5:46 with Letran on top 57-50.
Their woes continued in the final 17 seconds of the game when Louie Sangalang caught a technical foul, with Letran nursing a six-point edge, 67-61.
Carl Lacap fired 12 points for the Cardinals, who slipped to their fourth loss in five outings.
“The players, especially the veterans, stepped up. The composure was there. Mapua played physical. But we were expecting that,” said Knights’ coach Bonnie Tan.
Tan is worried about their next game with the San Beda Red Lions on Friday, because they will likely miss Paraiso and Sangalang, as their infractions carry possible one-game suspensions each.
Commissioner Tonichi Pujante will review the infractions and decide before the match.