STAGS, KNIGHTS ARRANGE NCAA TITLE SHOWDOWN

MANILA, September 11, 2003 (STAR) By Joey Villar  - Taking no chances, Letran and San Sebastian College trounced their respective rivals behind explosive runs in the fourth quarter to arrange a championship showdown for this year’s NCAA crown at the Rizal Coliseum yesterday.

Jonathan Aldave scattered 10 of his 13 points in the final period as the Knights rolled past the Mapua Cardinals, 72-66, while Venancio Rebuya Jr. stepped up for the Stags down the stretch to steer the defending champions to an 81-73 victory over the Jose Rizal Heavy Bombers.

The Knights and the Stags finished 1-2 after the double-round elims and took a twice-to-beat edge in the Final Four. But both teams refused to be dragged into a sudden death stage and clinched the finals berths right away.

Three Stags churned out double-digit scores, including back-up guard Red Vicente who had 19 points, but it was Rebuya who sparked SSC’s big run in the fourth.

Atoning for his sub-par performance in the elimination round, Aldave took charge for the Knights in the final period, knocking down a couple of treys and knocking out the Cardinals from the finals race.

The Knights advanced to the championship for the first time in four years.

Defense also did it for Louie Alas’ charges as they held the Cardinals without a field goal and limited them to just six free throws in the last four minutes of play to fashion out the victory that more than made up for their twin losses to Mapua in the elims.

"I know that Jonathan is due for a good game and I’m happy he came out with a big one," said Alas, who steered the Knights to the 1998 crown.

"Maganda din yung depensa namin ngayon, tawag nga namin eh ‘amoeba defense’ dahil hirap talaga sila," he added.

What compounded the Cards’ woes was the sidelining of skipper Christian Guevarra in the crucial stretch of the match due to cramps.

The high-leaping, hardworking Guevarra scored 13 points for the Cardinals and could’ve added some more had he not been pulled out after sustaining cramps for the third time down the stretch.

Raymund Dula, playing his last season, tried to fill in the void left by Guevarra but failed as Mapua remained without a title for the 13th straight year.

With its big men in foul trouble, Letran got overpowered in the shaded area as it trailed 35-40 at the break.

But Alas made some big adjustments with the Knights applying a double-teaming defense on Dula, Nat Cruz and Andrew Salud inside while slowly but surely regaining the lead and the momentum going into the final period.

Then Aldave took over.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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