San Beda College will begin its title defense today when it takes on archrival Letran College in Game 1 of the best-of-three finals of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 91 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Red Lions vs Knights match will begin at 4 p.m. after the 2 p.m. battle between the San Beda Red Cubs and the Arellano University Braves in the high school division.
San Beda under the tutelage of coach Jamike Jarin is aiming to rule the meet for the sixth straight time. If it wins again this year, it would be the Red Lions’ 20th overall senior basketball crown.
San Beda College won eight of the last nine NCAA titles under four different coaches – Koy Banal (2006), Frankie Lim (2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011), Ronnie Magsanoc (2012) and Boyet Fernandez (2013 and 2014).
“It’s going to be a very interesting finals series and it’s going to be tough,” said Jarin. “They claim that they are the underdogs in this series, but we’re also the underdogs. Letran’s players are all been there already. Mark Cruz, Kevin Racal, Rey Nambatac have the experience of winning.”
“We have to take care of Cruz, Kevin and their bench. I have to give credit also to Letran coach Aldin Ayo for leading his team to the championship. We cannot relax against Letran and we have to give our best every second of the game.”
The Red Lions are expected to rely on the prowess of on pro-bound Arthur Dela Cruz, Baser Amer, Ola Adeogun, Pierre Tonkoua, Roldan Sara, Ryusei Koga and Amiel Soberano in battling the Nights.
“I would like to leave a legacy to my school by winning this year’s championship because this will be my last year,” said Dela Cruz. “That’s my motivation for this series.”
The No. 1 Red Lions made it to the Final Four and secured the first twice-to-beat advantage after finishing the elimination round with a 13-5 win-loss record.
The Knights, on the other side, are bent on avenging their 2013 loss to the Red Lions.
Expected to step up for Letran in Game 1 are playmaker Cruz, Racal, Nambatac and Jomari Sollano.
The Knights who earned the other twice-to-beat bonus, nipped Mapua 91-90 in the Final Four.