Truly an MVP
Calvin Oftana received his MVP trophy just a few hours before San Beda battled for survival in the NCAA Season 95 men’s basketball finals.
The tireless forward then showed everyone he deserved the award, saving the night for the Red Lions in a 79-76 victory on Friday that stretched their title showdown with the Letran Knights to a winner-take-all duel.
“I just played with all my heart,” said Oftana, who delivered a three-point play that put San Beda ahead with 19.1 seconds remaining.
“I just followed and trusted the system and we made sure to play as a team this time,” added Oftana, who missed a potential game-winning triple in Game 1 before making sure his heroics would count in Game 2.
Nearly stealing the title away, the Knights flubbed the opportunity after Bonbon Batiller lost his grip in a shot that could have won it all with six seconds remaining.
Evan Nelle, San Beda’s quick-footed point guard, grabbed the rebound that led to a pair of James Canlas free throws that gave the Lions a three-point edge.
With no timeout left, Jerrick Balanza sailed a strong pass past Allen Mina, sealing their decider on Tuesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“Letran did a good job and they were really ready for us. We’re just lucky tonight after Fran Yu suffered from cramps,” said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez.
Yu brought the Knights back to life, sinking three consecutive threes and banking a shot at the buzzer that bumped them ahead, 56-53, entering the fourth.
“I’m just relieved that we got this one. Our players don’t want to lose and I hope we will sustain this until Tuesday,” Fernandez said after the Lions recovered from an ugly shooting performance in Game 1.
Canlas was likewise instrumental in helping the Lions as well as Clint Doliguez and reed-thin center Kenmark Carino, who pitched in for a foul-troubled Donald Tankoua.
“We want to make a point. We don’t want to go home with another loss because we are the defending champions,” the Filipino-Canadian Canlas said after pouring eight of his team-high 21 points in the decisive fourth.