STAGS FORCE RUBBER

MANILA, September 20, 2003 (STAR) By Joey Villar  - Defending champion San Sebastian uncorked a vicious fourth quarter run as it ripped Letran, 85-77, yesterday to forge a rubber match for the 79th NCAA crown at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.

Chris Baluyot came through with two triples in the stretch, sparking a mighty rally that erased an eight-point deficit for the victory which levelled the best-of-three series at one game apiece.

"Para siguro talaga sa amin ang game na ito," said San Sebastian coach Arturo Valenzona, responsible for seven of the schoolís 11 titles, two less than Letranís 13.

Indeed, the Stags teetered in the brink of defeat after trailing by eight early in the fourth period, thanks in part to a maze of errors in a brief spell bridging the third and fourth quarters.

But that was before Baluyot, ineffective in his teamís humiliating 73-89 loss in Wednesdayís series opener, woke up from a stupor.

With the Stags down 67-59, Baluyot ignited a series of runs with a pair of triples as they erased that deficit and gained the lead.

San Sebastian and Letran go at it again on Wednesday also at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in a do-or-die title duel.

Letran appeared on its way to a 14th title but just self-destructed in the stretch.

"Sayang," was all Letran mentor Louie Alas could say.

Earlier, the San Beda Cubs reigned supreme in the high school competition by downing the Mapua Red Robins, 74-70, in the finals to complete a 15-game sweep.

After a slow 7-11 start, Red Vicente triggered a 14-2 blast as San Sebastian seized a 21-13 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Stags made it a 10-point deficit in the second period but Ronjay Enrile, who starred in Letranís giant-sized Game 1 triumph, spearheaded a blistering comeback that knotted the count at 38-all at the break.

A heated exchange highlighted the better part of the third period until Letranís Aaron Aban gave the Knights a 67-59 upperhand, their last hurrah.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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