Letran completes back-to-back NCAA juniors bid after dominating Perpetual

Arriba Letran! (GMA photo)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

The Colegio de San Juan de Letran high school boys’ hoops squad successfully achieved back-to-back NCAA Juniors’ Basketball championship titles after out-maneuvering the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA, 93-76, in Game 3 of their best-of-three finals series in Season 99 on March 23, 2024, at the FilOil EcoOil Centre.

Aiming to bounce back after a demoralizing loss in Game 2 when they let their 19-point lead slip away, the Letran Squires showed poise under pressure and showcased one of their most efficient performances in the NCAA Juniors finals.

After trailing by three points in the first three minutes of the game, Letran hosted a massive offensive rally and didn’t look back as they built an early double-digit cushion and protected its advantage until the final buzzer.

The wire-to-wire victory kicked off after Letran head coach Allen Ricardo deployed his death five lineup headed by the trio of Titing Manalili, George Diamante, and Syrex Silorio.

As soon as the three aces began to work for Letran, their signature full-court defensive pressure then worked like magic as they got three crucial steals to seal the opening quarter with a 24-18 lead.

The intensity further ramped up for the Squires in the second quarter as their deep bench rotation outplayed Perpetual’s strong five lineup, holding the forth for Letran while further pushing the lead to double-digits at the half, 49-38.

A familiar counter-run was then witnessed in the third as Perpetual erased Letran’s 18-point advantage and managed to cut their deficit to just six points after they hosted a three-point party.

Just when Perpetual thought they could replicate their Game 2 performance where they continued to roll, the Squires answered with their timely adjustments after managing the minutes of their big stars.

When Perpetual’s big guns came firing from all cylinders while draining a lot of energy during that third-quarter surge, the Squires showed that resting their main stars was worth the gamble after they had fresh legs in the final 10 minutes of the game.

The results then weaved wonders for the Squires as they completely shut down Perpetual with their tight defensive coverage and tremendous offensive ball distribution.

Silorio played the game of his life after top-scoring Letran with 27 big points and was the one who sparked the Squires with six straight markers to open the fourth.

Meanwhile, Manalili’s steadiness and leadership were in full effect in the do-or-die Game 3, tallying 19 points and six steals to bag the Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.

“Sobrang saya kasi pinagarap ‘ko to dati pa, bago kami mag-champion, gusto ‘ko talaga ‘yung buong taon ko sa NCAA mag-champion ko, at natupad naman,” said Manalili.