FOUR-peat seeking San Beda College Red Lions and challenger Letran
Knights will dispute the 89th National Basketball Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s basketball crown in a winner-take-all match game at 2:30 p.m. today at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Both the 17-time champion Red Lions and the 16-time titlist Knights are in a 1-1 tie in the best-of-three titular series after the Knights posted a 79-74 win over San Beda in Game 2 on Thursday. The Red Lions of coach Boyet Fernandez won Game One, 80-68, on Monday.
Coach Caloy Garcia of Letran is expecting his second stringers to step up and support Mark Cruz and 6’7 pro-bound center Raymond Almazan.
“Our second stringers stepped-up during Game 2. When Mark [Cruz] was in foul trouble, McJour Luib, Rey Nambatac and John Tambeling were there to continue the big run,” said Garcia.
Luib, Nambatac and Tambeling combined for 20 points mostly in the second half, which was a vast improvement of their combined output of only six points in Game One.
Despite a swollen thumb, the diminutive Cruz still led the Knights with 16 points.
“It’s going to be a game of adjustments in Game 3. We grabbed the opportunity in Game 2,” added Garcia. Letran aims to avoid a repetition of last year’s Finals where they lost in the deciding game by a huge margin, 39-67.
Meanwhile, coach Boyet Fernandez of San Beda remained confident that the Red Lions could still win the crown.
“Actually nothing’s lost. There’s still Game 3. They cannot beat us back-to-back; my players will not allow that to happen. It will be a dogfight on Saturday,” said Fernandez, who’s pinning his hopes on point-guard Baser Amer despite the latter’s miserable shooting of three-on-21 in the field on Thursday.
“Letran was able to provide tough defense on Baser Amer. But I still believe in him,” said Fernandez whose team had a low 38 percent shooting compared to 48 of the Knights in Game 2. Frank Calapre