Defending champion San Beda College and Colegio de San Juan de Letran will be disputing the crown today in Game 3 of their National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 91 men’s basketball best-of-three championship series at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Expect a blockbuster showdown when the Red Lions collides with the Knights in the do-or-die match at 4 p.m. The two teams split the first two matches.
Letran won in Game 1 via a 94-90 victory but momentum has shifted on San Beda’s side following its 68-61 win in Game 2 that enabled the Red Lions to tie the series at 1-1.
“It’s [Game 3] gonna be one hell of a game. From start to finish, it’s gonna be a classic one. I know both schools because of their traditions will come fighting,” stressed San Beda head coach Jamike Jarin as he aims to steer the Red Lions to their sixth-straight crown and 20th overall.
“Every basketball player should experience a rubber match. It doesn’t get better than this. Rubber matches, these are historic. If you lose, you win, you’re part of the history right away. Ito ‘yung maaalala ka dahil you’re part of something really big,” he said.
The Red Lions appear more dangerous now as other players are stepping up including sophomore Javee Mocon, who delivered 13 points in Game 2, and Micole Sorela and Roldan Sara, who combined for nine points in the fourth quarter.
Usual scorers Nigerian slotman Ola Adeogun and Art Dela Cruz also delivered as well as Philippine Basketball Association-bound Baser Amer. Adeogun had 14 while Dela Cruz bounced back from a sub-par opening series performance with a 12-point output.
Amer listed nine points but grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out four assists.
“I’m lost for words for these young men especially Javee who is only in his sophomore year and what else can I say to Baser. He has done it since high school. This kid is a winner,” Jarin added.
Letran, on the other hand, remains unfazed.
The Knights played tough defense at crunch time, forcing the Red Lions to commit 32 turnovers.
“We lost [in Game 2]but I’m still very optimistic come Game 3 dahil andun yung effort. Thirty-two turnovers sila, 11 lang kami. Bottomline, ang basketball kung sino ang pinakamaraming puntos, yun ang mananalo,” Letran mentor Aldin Ayo said.
Aiming to win their first crown since 2005, the Knights vowed to go all-out with Mark Cruz, who averaged 19 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.5 steals in the series, leading the charge along with Kevin Racal, Rey Nambatac and McJour Luib.
In juniors, the San Beda Red Cubs will be battling the Arellano University Braves in Game 3 of their own championship series at 2 p.m.
San Beda is one win away of claiming its seventh-straight title while Arellano needs two more wins to bag its first crown in the league.