MANILA, September 18, 2003 (STAR) By Joey Villar  - Letran came out smoking in the second period behind crisp outside shooting and a sleek running game as it imposed its will on defending champion San Sebastian to fashion out an 89-73 victory yesterday and move a win away from clinching the 79th NCAA basketball crown at the packed Rizal Memorial Coliseum.

Ronjay Enrile spearheaded the Knights’ charge with 21 points but it was Jonathan Aldave who fuelled a stirring second quarter run that pushed Letran beyond recall en route to the decisive win.

The Knights will go for their 14th title while the Stags hope to extend the series to a winner-take-all match in Game Two tomorrow.

Aldave, a sophomore out of Catanduanes, scattered 11 of his 14 points in the second quarter, including three triples, as the Knights unloaded a 30-9 binge that scuttled the Stags’ bid for comebacks.

That was all the Knights needed in putting away the challenge of the three-peat seeking Stags, who came into the best-of-three series as the favorites, as Enrile, Aaron Aban, Boyet Bautista and rookie Jonathan Pinera took care of things in the stretch.

"We didn’t change anything, we just played harder and tougher in this game," said Alas, who also steered the Knights to the 1998 title over the Stags.

Enrile unleashed an 11-point splurge in a 16-0 blitz as Letran turned a 0-6 deficit to a 16-6 lead but this year’s MVP Leomar Najorda struck back for San Sebastian to level the count at 21 at the end of the first quarter.

With the former NCAA high school MVP resting on the bench, Aldave came in with three triples in a telling second quarter blast that gave the Knights a 51-30 lead at the break and control.

With Aban taking charge, the Knights led by as much as 22 points six times in the third quarter, the last at 69-47, and never looked back from there as the Stags could get no closer than 12 points the rest of the way.

Triples also rained aplenty for the Knights with 11, all coming from Enrile (4), Aldave (3), Bautista (2) and Aban (2).

Earlier, the Mapua Red Robins booked a seat in the finals against San Beda after it downed the Letran Squares, 76-60.

The scores:

First Game (Jrs.)

MIT 76 — Galinato 22, Tabaquero 19, Aguilar 12, Del Rosario 7, Marquez 7, Ocampo 6, Garcia 3.

CSJL 60 — Morial 22, Bituin 12, Salazar 8, Martin 7, Lapitan 6, Tajao 2, Abdon 2, Ruiz 1, Tagarda 0, Musni 0, Latonio 0, Espiritu 0, Reodique 0, Pasana 0, Mariwa 0.

Quarterscores: 18-14, 37-28, 59-44, 76-60

Second Game (Srs.)

CSJL 89 — Enrile 21, Aldave 14, Aban 14, Bautista 10, Pineda 10, Santos 8, Rodriguez 4, Fedelicio 2, Reyes 2, Realista 2, Anabo 2, Quinday 0.

SSC-R 73 — Baluyot 14, Najorda 14, Moore 13, Vicente 9, Uy 8, Gonzales 8, Maneclang 3, Rebuya 3, Aguilar 1, Lim 0.

Quarterscores: 21-21, 51-30, 71-54, 89-73

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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