Colegio de San Juan de Letran will be gunning for a sweep when it battles defending champion San Beda College in Game 2 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 91 men’s basketball best-of-three championship series today at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The game is set at 4 p.m. with the Knights hoping to end their 11-year title drought in the league.
The last time Letran won was in 2005 when it posted a 2-1 series win against former league member Philippine Christian University. They lost in Game 1 (74-79) but bounced back in Game 2 (78-60) and Game 3 (62-54).
“Same effort, same energy and we’re going to finish that off. Of course they are going to adjust because they lost in Game 1. ‘Yun din ang ginawa namin nung natalo kami sa playoffs and nung second round nag-adjust din kami,” said Letran head coach Aldin Ayo.
Letran took a 1-0 series lead after nailing a thrilling 94-90 victory in Game 1 last Saturday with four players scoring in double figures led by graduating Kevin Racal’s 28 points.
“Throughout the season ‘yun lang naman ang ginagawa namin, tumira ng tumira. Yun ang laro namin, yun din ang laro nila. It was fun, we’re playing tough defense and ‘yung offense nandun. It was a classic kind of game,” added Ayo.
Also shining in Game 1 for Letran were Rey Nambatac (18), Mark Cruz (17) and McJour Luib (16).
“Sabi namin ni Mark sa mga teammates namin na last year na namin. So tulungan kami ng mga teammates namin na gawin yung tama. Nagtulungan lang kami para makuha yung panalo. Pero hindi namin masasabi sa Game 2. Kailangan namin pagtrabahuhan para makuha namin ‘yung title,” stressed Racal.
Defense is still the key factor to win against the reigning champions especially on San Beda’s slotman Nigerian Ola Adeogun, according to Cruz.
“Nag-focus lang kami sa defense ‘yun ang barometer ng team, ‘yun ang laging inuutos sa amin ni coach. ‘Yun ang priority namin, defense, dun lang kami nag-stick sa game plan namin. ‘Yung offense namin dumarating after good defense,” narrated Cruz.
Expect a strong San Beda comeback as Red Lions mentor Jamike Jarin vowed to stretch the series to a deciding Game 3.
“I failed to prepare these young men for Game 1 and I take blame to that. I failed to coach them the right way. Good thing about it, we still have Game 2. You have to win two games to get a championship. They got the first game and I congratulate them, they won fair and square,” he said.
Jarin pointed out San Beda’s 29 turnovers in Game 1 that need to be addressed.
“It was the turnovers that cost us [in Game 1]. We just need to gather our senses and play as a team. We just need to play smarter because there were a couple of plays that we didn’t play smart that costs us the lead, the suppose to get back or to tie,” Jarin said.
Adeogun must display another monster game along with veterans Baser Amer and Arthur Dela Cruz. The Nigerian player scored 23 points and 16 rebounds in Game 1 while the Philippine Basketball Association-bound Amer was limited to just eight points.
In the juniors division, San Beda eyes for its seventh-straight title when it battles Arellano University in Game 2 of their own series. Then Red Cubs won in Game 1, 76-68.