Letran has spent most of the year doing things at the gym primarily for one reason—to end San Beda’s NCAA reign.
The Knights have put themselves in a position to do just that, and will try to put those hours of simulation to great use on Friday in Game 2 of the men’s basketball finals at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
“We compete as hard as we can during practice. Out there, we don’t treat each other as teammates,” said guard Fran Yu, the hero of Letran’s series-opening victory on Tuesday. “That’s how serious we are in this series.”
Backing up Yu in their bid to dethrone the Red Lions are veterans Jerrick Balanza, Bonbon Batiller, King Caralipio and center Larry Muyang.
But the Red Lions, champions for three seasons in a row, won’t let this one easily slip away after sweeping the 18-game elimination round.
“I always take the blame for every loss, but it’s just a matter of moving forward and really bouncing back,” San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez said. “The pressure is on us now.”
Tournament MVP Calvin Oftana and the Lions will have to recover their shooting form after going an atrocious 6-for-40 from trifecta territory in Game 1, which greatly contributed to their downfall.
Donald Tankoua should protect the rim from Letran’s deep pool of scrappy big men, while Mythical Team members Evan Nelle and James Canlas are expected to keep the Lions going at the backcourt.
Despite the defeat, San Beda thinks it can still level the series if the Lions limit Letran’s high-scoring game.
“If we can do that tomorrow (Friday) and make our shots, we will give ourselves a chance to force Game 3,” Fernandez said.
It also helped that the Knights has a coaching brigade shouting behind their bench composed of NorthPort’s Pido Jarencio and Jeff Napa, Columbian’s Johnedel Cardel and San Miguel executive Alfrancis Chua.
That’s apart from Letran’s regular coaching entourage that include Barangay Ginebra’s LA Tenorio and former PBA guard Rensy Bajar.
But at the end of the day, head coach Bonnie Tan knows it would still boil down on how his Knights will come out and play.
“We’re just here to guide and motivate, the rest is up to them,” Tan said. “We got some encouraging words from our friends who are legends and former PBA players. I just hope we don’t get overconfident.”