MANILA, Philippines – After five long years, Letran coach Louie Alas and his Knights are back in the finals against the San Beda Red Lions. And they are bent on going all the way to end a championship drought.
Letran finished the elims with a scintillating 8-1 win-loss card, with the lone loss against its upcoming finals opponent.
The Knights took the third spot to set up a semis clash with a fancied San Sebastian squad, who they defeated twice in the elims and eventually ousted despite the Stags’ twice-to-beat advantage.
And now, Letran is in the big dance with defending champion San Beda – a series expected to be a fitting end to the 88th season of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
"I can no longer recall the feeling of being in the championship round because it’s been a while. I will cherish this win though for at least two hours, then we’ll go back to work," Alas said after the Knights’ pulsating 73-70 victory against the Stags last Monday.
Gametime is at 6 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
“I’m really happy for the victory but we’ve not yet reached our goal, which is to win the championship," added Alas, who has been calling the shots for the Knight for over a decade already.
Asked about their chances against the highly favored and three-peat seeking Lions, Alas believes they can play well against them.
"They (San Beda) have a deeper bench but it will all boil down to heart. I think we can nullify any disadvantages with it,” said the Letran mentor.
"The game is 50 percent x's and o's and 50 percent willingness and heart. It’s good that we have heart and willingness,” he added.
Alas believes the biggest challenge they have – both literally and figuratively – is San Beda's Ola Adeogun.
"We have to study hard on how to defend him (Adeogun) because he is really a big part of their team. But right now, we're just happy that we're back in the finals," Alas said.