Knights look to veterans vs skidding Cardinals

Much of the valuable pieces the Letran Knights once had will no longer be around in their rematch with an intact Mapua Cardinals on Tuesday at the NCAA Season 98 men’s basketball tournament.

Dependable wingman Brent Paraiso and peppery guard Fran Yu will thus have to shoulder a lot of responsibilities if the Knights want a repeat of their conquest of the Cardinals during last season’s championship.

“We have 15 more games and we are expecting our veterans to lead the way. We live and die with them when we close out a game,’’ said Letran coach Bonnie Tan, who still enjoys the deep rotation he had during the Knights’ perfect season despite losing three key ingredients to the pros.

Do-it-all forward King Caralipio, two-way guard Kurt Reyson and inside operators Louie Sangalang and Paolo Javillonar remain with the back-to-back defending champs, a roster made sturdy by the presence of newbies Kobe Monje and Kevin Santos.

The boss

“These veterans play a big role for us to win, they will also cause whatever outcome these games will have,’’ said Tan.

The Knights have just recovered from their first defeat since 2019 inflicted by the Arellano Chiefs when they showed the College of St. Benilde Blazers who is the boss in the league.

That 81-75 win over the previously unbeaten Blazers was definitely a statement for the Knights, who are now seeking a third win in four outings.

“All games here are crucial, especially those that we will play at the start of the season. Whether we win or lose, everybody’s watching us. I just hope we always go to the win column,’’ said Tan.

One good thing going for the Knights is that the Cardinals have been out of sorts lately, dropping three straight matches after a strong opening win against San Beda.

Most notably, the Cardinals haven’t been able to close out games, as evidenced by a two-point defeat to Perpetual Help recently. INQ