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Squires, Junior Altas play for all the marbles

Game Saturday
(Filoil EcoOil Arena)
9:30 a.m. -- Letran vs UPHSD

MANILA, Philippines -- Letran seeks to bury the ghost of Game 2 while University of Perpetual Help hopes to relive its glory as the two battle each other in Saturday’s rubber match at the Filoil EcoOil Arena that will determine who brings home the NCAA Season 99 junior basketball trophy.

The Squires, 13-time league champions and winners in a 97-80 Game 1 rout a week ago, appeared on the brink of clinching the series in Game 2 when they erected a 19-point second-quarter lead only to see it dissipate.

It had another chance late but missed three free throws, including two by June Silorio that would have sealed the deal.

Instead, the Junior Altas stole it with a series-knotting, Game 3-setting 91-90 triumph that put them in prime position to claim what had been a dream before — a glorious breakthrough high school cage championship.

“Isa pa,” said a teary-eyed UPHSD coach Johp Cleopas, a rookie coach who is on the verge of steering his hungry, ambitious charges to greatness.

Jan Pagulayan and Amiel Acido, the season MVP, delivered on the clutch but Cleopas knows their fate hangs on how they would defend Moses Manalili and Letran’s high-octane offense.

UPHSD held Manalili to just 12 points after he detonated a 35-point bomb in the opener and should come with his guns ablaze.

“Expect na namin ilalabas na lahat ng Letran, but God-willing, bibigay din namin lahat,” said Cleopas.

Acido, who came alive in the second half in time to light the fire that resurrected the Junior Altas back from the dead and deliver one of the league’s most dramatic comebacks in finals history.

“Alam po namin mahirap, pero susubukan po namin,” he said.