MANILA, Philippines - San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez anticipates a struggle against Letran, a classic matchup in their showdown for the 89th NCAA seniors basketball crown beginning tomorrow.
For Fernandez, it’s not only MVP Raymond Almazan and veteran guard Mark Cruz who pose a major threat but also an army of other Knights who can give four-peat-seeking Red Lions a big headache.
“If you look at their Final Four showing, they massacred San Sebastian so we have to worry about them,” said Fernandez, referring to the Knights’ 85-58 mangling of San Sebastian.
“Letran is Almazan and Cruz’s team but you don’t forget about (Kevin) Racal, (Jonathan) Belorio, (John) Tambeling, who’s shooting well, (Rey) Nambatac, who’s playing well. For me, it will be a classic match-up, the best way to finish the season. I just hope we’ll win in the end,” he added.
No one enjoys the edge in their head-to-head duel this season, with Letran taking the first match, 74-67, last Aug. 24 and San Beda winning round 2 in overtime, 76-72, last Oct. 21.
Asked about what concerns him the most about the Knights’ game, Fernandez said: “ Their fastbreak, their transition offense. Almazan, come to think of it, but Ola (Adeogun) is there, and Cruz, we’ll find a way to stop him. We’ll prepare for them.”
This will be a rematch of the finals protagonists last year. After splitting the first two games of the 2012 duel, San Beda turned the decider into a one-sided affair, copping its third straight crown via a 67-39 blowout.
Adeogun said he expects a more physical, more aggressive stance from a Knights side that would be a lot harder to hurdle this time around.
“I think this year, they play more as a team, and it’s hard to beat a team like that. You can’t focus on just one player, let’s say Cruz, other players will kill you. So I think it’s harder (to beat them) this year,” said the import.
Then there’s the redemption factor that could fuel Letran.
“Sariwa pa sa amin yung last year so may gigil kami na bumawi talaga. This year, hindi na mangyayari yung last year (The bitter memories of the bungled title drive last year still haunt us and we are determined to bounce back. We promise there won’t be a repeat of the 2012 campaign),” said Almazan, who is personally determined to cap his college stint with an NCAA crown.