San Beda, Letran clash one last time for NCAA Season 95 crown
MANILA, Philippines—The San Beda Red Lions thought they were just fortunate to stretch their NCAA Season 95 title encounter to its breaking point.
The defending champion Lions don’t want to rely on sheer luck this time in the grand finale of their titular series with the dangerous Letran Knights on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“It’s really nice playing Letran. I really love to play against them,” said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez, whose Lions are looking for their fourth championship crown in a row. “Whoever wins tomorrow (Tuesday), truly deserves it.”
The Knights came close to sweeping the series in Game 2, if not for a cramp-stricken Fran Yu early in the fourth quarter when the Lions mounted a comeback from seven points down.
“We’re lucky, Fran Yu wasn’t there on the floor,” said Calvin Oftana, who delivered the decisive three-point play with 19.1 seconds remaining that allowed San Beda to force the decider. “Going into this game (Game 3), our desire to win will play a very important role.”
With Evan Nelle and James Canlas alternating on him, Yu was practically unstoppable—knocking down three step back threes in one stretch and banked a shot in the lane that gave the Knights control late in the third.
The Letran ace point guard capped his heroics with another three early in the fourth but was pulled out after suffering from leg cramps.
“We just moved forward from that defeat and focus our energies in Game 3,” said Letran head coach Bonnie Tan, looking for his first NCAA title while aiming to provide the Knights their second crown in five seasons.
Brawny center Larry Muyang, who kept Letran afloat after Yu didn’t show up anymore, will again provide an interesting faceoff with Donald Tankoua, San Beda’s Cameroonian center.
“It was unfortunate for me. I will come in more prepared this time,” said Yu, the tournament’s most improved player who led the Knights throughout the stepladder semifinals until the second game of the title series.
Attention will likewise be generated by the Knights’ graduating swingmen—team captain Jerrick Balanza and Bonbon Batiller—versus the versatile Canlas and the hot-shooting Clint Doliguez.
We have to win this. Execute properly, make big plays and always play hard defense,” said the Filipino-Canadian Canlas.