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Fran-less Letran makes key adjustments

With or without Fran Yu, Letran College will be ready when it marches to a sudden-death battle against College of Saint Benilde in Season 98 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament best-of-three finals series.

Knights assistant coach Jaren Jarencio said they are already exploring other options to fill the giant void that will be created by the absence of the 24-year-old skipper in the crucial encounter this Sunday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

Yu was slapped with a disqualifying foul after elbowing Mark Sangco in an inbound play in the second period of Game 2 last Sunday at eh Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The gesture appeared to be unintentional, but it knocked down the Blazer forward, prompting game officials to throw Yu out of the playing court.

The Knights made an appeal to overturn the possible suspension but the league’s management committee upheld the verdict since “there was no new evidence presented by Letran as required by the NCAA rules to lift the suspension and Letran did not contest the judgement call made by game officials.”

Still, the Knights are ready to go to war without their seasoned ground commander.

“We already adjusted in practice yesterday,” said Jarencio, son of NorthPort head coach Pido Jarencio.

“We already had a meeting on who will replace Fran in the rotation in both offense and defense.”

He said they are still planning to utilize Yu’s experience and leadership by keeping him on the bench.

“Fran will be part of the scouting team because we don’t want him to be absent from our training. He’s still our team captain and leader,” Jarencio said.

With Yu out, much of the load will fall on the shoulders of veterans King Caralipio, Brent Paraiso, Louie Sangalang, Pao Javillonar and Tommy Olivario.

Kobe Monje and Kyle Tolentino could also provide some help as they return to the lineup after serving a one-game suspension in Game 2.

“Our veterans will be ready,” said.

“We just need to talk to our role players since they need to step up as well.”

Jarencio, however, admitted that the battle will not be easy, especially with Yu – their cornerstone in their past two title runs – being reduced into a mere cheerleader.

After all, the Blazers are peaking with newly-crowned Most Valuable Player Will Gozum, Migs Gozum, Miggy Corteza and Jimboy Pasturan fighting back, eager and hungry to win the title that has been eluding them for the past 22 years.

“It will be very tough. Saint Benilde is the No. 1 team here in the NCAA and, for me, we are the underdogs here,” Jarencio said, adding that the battle is tougher than what they had the past couple of years.

“We may be back-to-back champions, but that was last season. Our focus has been on defense and since we’re the best defensive team, we will always focus on that aspect.”

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