LETRAN’S decade-long wait is finally over.
Cebuano rookie Jomari Sollano made sure of this as he bailed the Knights out trouble in the overtime period as the Intramuros-based school captured its first collegiate title in 11 years in the 91st National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Sollano’s big basket in the last 6.4 seconds steered the Knights to a pulsating 85-82 overtime victory over the San Beda College Lions in Game 3 of their best-of-three finals series.
A product of the University of Southern Philippines, Sollano scored four of six big points in the last 1:11 and his baskets helped the Knights overtake a 79-82 deficit in the remaining time of the extra five minutes.
Scoring 19 points and hauling seven rebounds, the 6’4” Sollano unloaded a triple in final 32.6 seconds, allowing Letran to move ahead, 83-82.
This came after Kevin Racal’s two charities off Olaide Adeogun’s foul with 1:11 left allowed them to close in at 81-82, and Baser Amer was caught in a 24-second violation in the next play.
After Amer missed another attempt, Sollano split his charity off Adeogun’s foul with 6.4 seconds to go, 84-82, but the Lions couldn’t capitalize following a double-lane violation called by the referees.
The possession arrow was with Letran and Mark Cruz added a free throw with 3.7 seconds for the final tally.
Manny Pacquiao, the team’s main supporter, cheered quietly from the bench as SBC’s Art dela Cruz then made a desperation triple attempt that failed to hit its mark.
Letran, which lost twice to San Beda in the finals during the Red Lions’ five-year reign, collected its 17th collegiate crown and its first since 2003. The Knights, however, still trail the Red Lions, who have 19 collegiate titles.
Kevin Racal led the Knights with 23 points and Cruz, the finals MVP, tallied 14.
Coach Aldin Ayo told his boys not to give up after they lost Game 2, 61-68, last Tuesday.
“This is not the time to give up. This is still anybody’s ballgame, after we lost Game 2. I told them we can still do this,” said Ayo.
The Knights took Game 1 with a 94-90 win, and finished series at 2-1.
With their setback, San Beda missed their of owning their sixth straight championship and becoming the collegiate squad with the longest streak of titles won.
But they still share the honors with the San Sebastian Stags, who held it from 1993 to 1997.
On the other hand San Beda has also earned its record 22nd crown with their latest conquest in the junior division, making them the high school squad with the most crowns.
The fans, 19678, celebrated too early when Racal unloaded a trey in regulation, and missed, and with the count tied at 75-all.
Arthur de la Cruz showed the way for the Red Lions with 15 points, while Amer had 14 with Javee Mocon.
Amer capped an 8-0 when ied the count with his drive off Luib with 13 seconds left, 75-all.
Letran appeared headed for a win in regulation after Racal unleashed two of his five treys in the last 6:08, 64-56.