MANILA, Philippines - San Beda and Letran try to forge a second straight showdown for the NCAA men’s cage crown as they face Perpetual Help and San Sebastian, respectively, in the long-delayed Final Four at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Red Lions, who got a reprieve and retained the No. 1 seeding and twice-to-beat incentive after the NCAA management committee decided to defer its investigation on Ryusei Koga’s alleged violation of league rules, shoot for a finals berth against No. 4 Perpetual Help Altas at 2:30 p.m.
The second-ranked Knights also seek to make the most out of their twice-to-beat incentive to book a return trip to championship round in their 12:30 p.m. clash against No. 3 San Sebastian Stags.
San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez admitted that the Koga issue has somehow affected their preparations but they are trying their best to overcome it.
“It is very hard to prepare but we are turning this negative atmosphere into positive one,” said Fernandez. “Hopefully, we can bring a positive mindset going into the playoffs.”
Koga was investigated for allegedly playing in an inter-barangay tournament while the season is ongoing. Such an infraction would have resulted in a three-game suspension for the guard and forfeiture of four games for SBC, pulling the Lions down to fourth seed.
However, to allow team to “focus” on the playoffs, the Mancom on Tuesday night had ruled to defer the probe “without prejudice to its reopening should new evidence surface in the future.”
After days of preparing for no particular opponent due to the uncertainties brought about by the Koga case, San Beda team manager Jude Roque welcomed the extra day they got to focus specifically on the Altas.
For their part, the Altas hope to have recovered from the five-game slide they suffered ending the elims.
“We’re preparing hard for the semis and the guys have been showing good form in practices,” said coach Aric del Rosario in Filipino.
Meanwhile, Letran coach Caloy Garcia maintained that the Knights’ 2-0 sweep of the Stags (74-69 and 75-68) in the elims and win-once edge won’t guarantee a breeze in their semis showdown.
“It doesn’t matter right now if we’re twice to beat. We know San Sebastian is playing well,” said the first-year coach. “We don’t want to take them lightly. Nobody is twice to beat here.”
The Stags have won their last five games, giving them a big confidence boost heading to the playoffs
“At this point, we won’t consider who’s hot or not. It’s more of a mental game now and we’re a young team,” said SCC’s Topex Robinson. “It’s going to be a tough task of trying to beat Letran twice. But right now, our goal is to outwork them and win the hustle charts.”