Red Lions roar to 17th crownBy Jasmine W. Payo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines – San Beda zoomed to an early double-digit lead then overwhelmed Letran with an unexpected 67-39 rout in the winner-take-all Game 3 to capture its third straight NCAA men’s basketball championship before a boisterous crowd of 18,187 at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Clicking early behind guards Anjo Caram and Baser Amer, the Red Lions emerged on top for the sixth time in the last seven seasons to become the most successful basketball team in the league with a record 17 titles.
“They’re the heroes, they’re the ones who played inside the court,” San Beda coach Ronnie Magsanoc said of his gung-ho crew that took the fire out early from the Letran side, the unlikely finalist that had hoped to complete its Cinderella run.
“All I did was guide them,” added Magsanoc, who steered the Lions to a repeat of their 2006-2008 “three-peat” on his rookie year.
Playing his final year, Caram pumped in 17 points to lead the Lions while Amer capped a scintillating series performance with 14 that secured for the sophomore guard the Finals Most Valuable Player award.
“It’s good to exit as a champion,” said Caram. “We went through so much.”
The decider—which saw the Lions leading by as many as 31 points, 62-31, in the final quarter—came nowhere close to the thrill of the first two games of the best-of-three title series.
San Beda took Game 1 with a 62-60 decision before Letran leveled the series with a 64-55 triumph that snapped the Knights’ five-year, 15-game losing streak against the Lions.
“We played our worst game, they played their best game,” said Letran coach Louie Alas. “We weren’t able to match their intensity. San Beda deserves to win the championship. We’re not destined to be champions this year.”
Alas—whose Knights shot a pitiful 22 percent shooting clip in the first half—also announced his retirement from collegiate coaching after 14 seasons.
“That’s irrevocable, it’s time to move on,” said Alas. “I’ve thought about it for a long time. My relationship with (playing sons) Kevin and Junjun have also been affected. I’m always hard on them.”
After Kevin Alas shot seven of the Knights’ 10 points in the first period, Letran’s ace gunner struggled with a poor 5-of-21 clip from the field and wound up with just four points in the last three quarters.
SAN BEDA 67—Caram 17, Amer 14, J. Pascual 10. Adeogun 6, Dela Rosa 5, Koga 4, K. Pascual 4, Abarcar 2, Ludovice 2, Dela Cruz 1, Villaruz 0, Bonsubre 0, Moralde 0, Lim 0.
LETRAN 39—Cruz 12, Ke. Alas 11, Cortes 6, Racal 3, Almazan 3, Almario 2, Kr. Alas 2, Luib 0, Lituania 0, Gabawan 0, Cudal 0, Belorio 0.
Quarters: 18-10, 34-17, 45-25, 67-39