Lions devour Chiefs
San Beda needed to deal with just one headache to get its title-retention bid off on a roaring note.
Kent Salado, Arellano’s pint-sized point guard, gave the Red Lions all sorts of concerns in the first half and solving that puzzle was all the defending champions needed to post a lethargic 59-46 win at the start of the NCAA Season 95 men’s basketball tournament on Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“I scolded my players at halftime for allowing Salado to do his thing, and they responded by stopping him in the latter half,” said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez.
Salado, a flashy 5-foot-8 court general, created problems by scoring 13 points early on and making his teammates look really good that sent shivers down the Lions’ spine.
Needing somebody who could put the cuffs on the Chiefs’ hatchet man, Fernandez found diminutive but stocky guard Prince Etrata, who efficiently hounded Salado and eventually wore him down.
“Our mantra is defense before offense and it has won us several championships,” said Fernandez, who also got an offensive lift from veterans Donald Tankoua at the post and guards Evan Nelle and James Kwekuteye at the backcourt.
Seeking a fourth straight title, the Lions have a young core that Fernandez hopes would settle down in the coming games.
“I’m glad we overcame a jittery first game. I hope it will be a different San Beda as the games wear on,” said Fernandez.
With Salado bottled up, the Lions simply watched the Chiefs collapse while the tournament favorites regrouped in the fourth behind the efforts of Fernandez’ starters.
The Lyceum Pirates leaned on their wonder twins—Jaycee and Jayvee Marcelino—to neutralize the height advantage of the Letran Knights and begin their campaign on the right track with an 84-80 victory in the season opener.
The twins combined for half of Lyceum’s output capped by a series of fastbreaks that sealed Letran’s doom.
“Letran is a super tough team. We don’t have the height like them, but what we have is the strength of playing as a team,” said Lyceum coach Topex Robinson.
Trailing almost throughout, the Knights could have forced overtime and even steal the game from the Pirates if not for a Jerrick Balanza passing error in the dying seconds that eventually extinguished their hopes.
With Mike Nzeusseu on the bench with a fractured right index finger, the Pirates maximized their speed to counter Letran bigmen Larry Muyang, Ato Ular and Jeo Ambohot in the paint.
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