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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Blazers stun Knights, set deciding third game

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Disqualified point guard Fran Yu, a key figure in the Letran Knights’ championship showdowns over the last three years, sat out the last two quarters and watched from the dugout as the opposing College of St. Benilde Blazers took Game 2 with a 76-71 triumph on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.

With Yu out of the action following a disqualifying foul in the second quarter, the Blazers relied on season MVP Will Gozum, Miguel Oczon and James Pasturan to deliver the final blows that allowed CSB to stretch its best-of-three finals series in the 98th National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament to a deciding Game 3.

The Knights felt the absence of the 5’10” Yu for the rest of the game as the their top guard contented himself by watching the action, while sitting on a locker room bench, cooling himself down and wrapped in a blanket, as the Blazers equalized the series at 1-all.

Without Yu directing plays, backup guards Kurt Reyson and Tommy Olivario took over the backcourt chores for the rest of the game with Brent Paraiso.

Yu was ejected with 5:29 left in the second quarter with the Knights leading, 33-25, after he threw an elbow on Blazers’ cager Mark Sangco, and the Knights, who were already missing Kobe Monje and Kyle Tolentino due to suspensions, struggled to keep their lead afterwards.

The Blazers took advantage of Yu’s absence in the final quarter with Gozum attacking the board with a layup in the last 55 seconds to shatter at 71-all deadlock.

Reyson and Olivario could not stop Oczon from scoring a turnaround shot in the last 20.2 seconds, handing the Blazers a 75-71 edge.

After Andrey Guarino bungled a triple in the last 8.4 seconds, Pasturan sank a split charity three seconds later to finalize the count.

“They can beat us three times. But these last two games are all that matters,” said Blazers’ coach Charles Tiu after they finally pulled off their first triumph over the Knights in four tries this season.

Gozum went on to finish with 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Blazers, who will now have a chance to end a 20-year title drought when Game 3 is held at 3 p.m. on Sunday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

Paraiso banged in 16 points for Letran, which is in its third consecutive finals appearance.

Louie Sangalang and Reyson added 11 points each for the Knights, who beat the Blazers, 81-75, in Game 1.

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