Roaring Red Lions
James Canlas finally showed why he’s been touted as the future star of the San Beda Red Lions.
Playing a team that has proven to be a thorn for them in the elimination round the past two seasons, the defending champion Lions turned to Canlas for additional firepower as they held off the Lyceum Pirates, 75-68, to seal the top spot in the Final Four of NCAA Season 94 at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Graduating stars Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon dished out their usual numbers, but it was Canlas’ lethal combination of speed, athleticism and ability to finish at the rim that gave the Pirates fits in the battle between two teams that figured in the finals last season.
“James is the future of San Beda,” a beaming San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez said, referring to Canlas, a Filipino guard with Canadian roots, who fired a season high 18 points and grabbed six rebounds in the Lions’ 16th win against two losses.
“We had to be patient with him. He struggled a bit at the start of the season, but I think with veteran players guiding him, he’s really coming into his own,” Fernandez added.
Lyceum dropped to 15-3 and finished the elimination round as the second seed.
The Pirates will hold a twice-to-beat advantage against the Letran Knights in the Final Four on Oct. 26, while the Lions will also be armed with the same advantage against the Perpetual Help Altas.
With the playoffs looming, Fernandez saw the showdown against the Pirates as an opportunity to unleash Canlas, who was scouted by team manager Jude Roque during the 2016 NBTC tournament in Manila.
Razor sharp from start to finish, the Lions ended a three-game losing streak in the elimination round to the Pirates, who never got closer than five points in a game where they trailed by as big as 18.
“This was a challenge for us because we haven’t beaten Lyceum in the elimination round,” added Fernandez. “Now there’s a lot of pressure for us to go all the way to the finals.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.