MANILA, Philippines – Even as they need just one more game to secure a second straight NCAA title, the San Beda Red Lions remain convinced that they remain the underdogs in the Season 93 Finals.
After failing twice in the elimination round against the Pirates, San Beda finally broke through in Game 1 of the finals on Friday, beating Lyceum 94-87 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
Yet San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez, who branded his team the underdogs in the finals, stressed that they still deserve that tag.
"We just only won one game against LPU, and it's not yet over. We still have to win one more game," he said immediately after their victory.
Fernandez points out that, even though they took the lead in the series, they still cannot afford to count out a Lyceum team that swept the elimination round.
"We're still the underdog. They beat us twice, and they're still the best," said the coach. "If you total it, they're 18-1. We're 17-2."
"They're still the favorites for this," Fernandez stressed.
Nevertheless, Fernandez gave full credit to his players for how they played against the Pirates on Friday. In their elimination round games, the Red Lions succumbed in the end game, breaking down in the closing moments.
In Game 1, however, it was San Beda that proved to be the more composed team in the clutch moments. Robert Bolick, in particular, was superb in the end game, scoring nine of his team's last 11 points to help them take control of the ball game.
"We had to learn from that," Fernandez said, referring to their collapses against LPU in the elimination round. "Sabi ko nga sa kanila, kung hindi tayo natuto sa game natin na dalawang talo sa LPU, we have no right to be in the Finals."
San Beda did show that they have learned from its two losses to the Pirates.
The Red Lions cut down their turnovers, committing only 19 in Game 1 after throwing the ball away more than 20 times in their elimination round encounters. They also dominated the boards, tallying a 51-35 rebounding advantage, including a 16-10 lead in the offensive glass.
"Today, we proved ourselves, na kaya pala namin manalo (against Lyceum)," said Fernandez.
"Pero tandaan niyo," he immediately added, "hindi pa tapos ang laban."
Fernandez and the Red Lions are expecting Lyceum to come up with an inspired performance in Game 2. As Bolick put it: "Hindi sila nag-sweep para magpatalo lang sa Finals."
"They're going to come out strong," Bolick predicted. "We have to be ready, mentally and physically."
Game 2 is on Thursday, November 16, also at the Araneta Coliseum.
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