San Beda College collected another championship trophy after dethroning De La Salle University with a thrilling 75-72 victory in the FilOil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup finals on Sunday.
But returning head coach Boyet Fernandez knows that the real battle is just beginning to heat up with a bigger prize at stake in a much bigger tournament ahead.
“We are looking forward to NCAA and hopefully we can have the NCAA trophy stay in San Beda,” said Fernandez moments after dancing in delight on the court of the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
The nine-year mentor talked a lot about the incoming 93rd season of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the league wherein he marked history with the Red Lions.
Fernandez answered the “Go San Beda Five” call three years ago, towing the institution to its last two titles in an unprecedented feat of five-peat.
Following his short coaching stint with NLEX in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), the 45-year old mentor headed back to Mendiola with a familiar target—back-to-back championships.
“That’s the most important objective when I came in. We have to win back-to-back titles.”
Fortunately, the preseason tourney gave Fernandez a glimpse of the jobs that still need to be done in the next few days before the NCAA begins on July 8.
The 11-year PBA veteran admitted that the Lions have to tighten their individual defense and fine-tune their execution of plays, noting that they underwent sluggish starts and see-saw games in their 11-game sweep of the summer league’s 11th edition.
Fernandez also paid attention to their possible rivals for the NCAA crown, mentioning five teams that displayed exceptional basketball in their preseason campaign.
Lyceum of the Philippines University made a surprising run to the semifinals before copping its first podium finish in the preseason competition while San Sebastian College sparked a six-game winning streak despite playing minus a foreign student-athlete.
Jose Rizal University muscled its way to the semis on a limited rotation even as University of Perpetual Help System Dalta posed danger to the reigning NCAA titleholder after nearly scratching its perfect record in the elimination round.
The former national team cager, however, is wariest of the young and promising College of St. Benilde especially with the rookie coach TY Tang at the helm of the Blazers.
“It would be a tough NCAA. Because everybody is improving every game,” claimed Fernandez, whose squad will begin its title defense bid against San Sebastian in the season-opening game.
But for now, the Alpha and rest of the pride would just savor their second title in the Premier Cup.