(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - Long-time rivals San Beda and Letran are figuring in a title duel again after 57 long years.

The Red Lions and the Knights, as expected, showed the Mapua Cardinals and the Jose Rizal Heavy Bombers the door yesterday to arrange their best-of-three showdown for the 2007 NCAA basketball championship.

The Lions eased out the Cardinals, 74-64, while the Knights bundled out the Bombers, 70-61, in the Final Four at the Araneta Coliseum.

“We struggled in the first half but once we had our running game on, there was no stopping the team from making the final,” said San Beda coach Frankie Lim.

“It was a hard-fought game. It was a battle. We only gained the opening towards the end with RJ Jazul coming through with clutch plays,” said Letran coach Louie Alas.

Eliminating their respective Final Four rivals in one game, the Lions and the Knights will meet in the finals for the first time after the two teams slugged it out for the 1950 championship.

San Beda was then bannered by Caloy Loyzaga while Letran was spearheaded by Lauro Mumar and the members of the famous “Murder Inc.” The crown went to Letran.

Game One of the 2007 San Beda – Letran title duel is set Wednesday in the same venue.

“It’s going to be a huge game. In games like this, you throw the records out the window,” said Lim. “You can’t get the championship easily. They (the Knights) did a good job keeping their strengths.”

Yousif Aljamal, Pong Escobal, Sam Ekwe and Borgie Hermida delivered big numbers as they made it three in a row over the Cardinals this season.

The Knights, through the efforts of their heady guards, came through with a decisive 19-4 run in a seven-minute stretch bridging the last two quarters to overcome the Heavy Bombers’ tough challenge.

Reymar Gutilban and Jazul spearheaded the attack that had the Knights pulling away at 62-49 entering the last four minutes of play.

The two teams engaged in a fierce battle until JRU suddenly turned cold and Letran pounded the situation to book its third finals stint in the last five years.

The Heavy Bombers scored only four points in a 10-minute stretch after Jayson Nocom canned in two charities giving JRU a 45-43 edge with 2:02 left in the third period.

The Knights posted a commanding 13-point advantage but James Sena broke the spell with a short stab entering the last two minutes of play.

Jazul went 3-of-7 from beyond the arc and led all scorers with 17 points. Andro Quinday, Dino Daa, Bryan Faundo and Gutilban each added at least 10.

In the juniors division, two-time defending champion San Sebastian drubbed Jose Rizal, 85-74, to take the first final slot.

San Beda forced a rubbermatch with Letran with a 96-86 win in their own semis showdown.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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