Stags, Knights clash in KO battle for last finals berth
MANILA, Philippines - Letran is perked up by its smashing win Saturday while San Sebastian is likely to be re-energized by the return of Ronald Pascual as the two teams knock each other out for the second finals berth in the 2012 NCAA basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan today.
The Knights and the Stags play in a sudden death at 5 p.m., determining which of them fight the San Beda Red Lions in the best-of-three finale.
Game officials should be on their toes as the match could only be more rugged and intense than Saturday’s tussle where elbows, punches and kicks were thrown.
The Knights were putting the wraps on their huge win when Kristoffer “Junjun” Alas was caught hitting SSC forward Michael Miranda at midsection on a rebound play. Alas was ejected from the game and suspended for today’s rubber.
Arvin Vitug is also suspended for today’s game for an elbow foul (above the shoulder) on Carlo Lituania.
Several other technical infractions were called including one on SSC do-it-all player Calvin Abueva for kicking Jonathan Belorio in the groin.
Stag guard Michael Juico grimaced in pain on the floor as he was hit in the same spot a little later.
With the outcome of the game settled, Letran coach Louie Alas pulled out ace player/son Kevin Alas with over two minutes left to play.
Nonetheless, Alas finished with a career-best 43-point game as the Knights ran away with a 92-74 victory to force a do-or-die match with the Stags.
“It was like last year. Hopefully, we’ll be able to go all the way winning our duel this time,” said the Letran mentor.
San Sebastian and Letran also figured in a semis matchup last year with the Stags also enjoying the twice-to-beat edge. The Knights forged a rubber but the Stags prevailed in the KO match.
The Knights have beaten the Stags in all their first three games this season but coach Alas stressed the do-or-die match is an entirely different game.
For one, San Sebastian is likely to be pumped up by Pascual’s return from a game suspension.
“It’s about consistency on Monday. Whoever is able to play consistent ball the whole game gets it,” said Alas.
San Sebastian, a team in chase of a fourth straight finals stint, lost Game One as it came out flat, scoring just seven points in the first quarter.
The Knights built a 20-point bulge right in the opening quarter and stayed in command to the finish behind Alas’ explosive game, Mark Cruz’s backcourt leadership and Raymond Almazan’s good defensive job on SSC star center Ian Sangalang.
Almazan threw Sangalang out of his comfort zone, holding him down to 13 points and five rebounds.