MANILA, Philippines—The San Beda Red Lions had nothing but words of praise for the San Sebastian Golden Stags following their physical tussle in the stepladder semifinals of the NCAA Season 93 tournament on Tuesday.
The coaches of both teams — San Beda's Boyet Fernandez and San Sebastian's Egay Macaraya — engaged in a memorable war of words midway through the tournament, after Fernandez had some choice words for Baste big man Michael Calisaan and his physical plays.
But they buried the hatchet even before their semifinal game, and exchanged pleasantries after San Beda hacked out a 76-71 victory to secure a finals berth.
"I give credit to San Sebastian," Fernandez said. "I have so much respect for coach Egay. He really did a good job, they had a good run this season. As what I've always said, they're one of the best teams right now in the league."
"And I'm really proud of him. He made sure he made a fighting team out of that San Sebastian team. It will be a team to reckon with in the next years to come with coach Egay there," he added. "Give credit also to the players of San Sebastian. They really played well today."
The San Beda players also commended the Golden Stags, even after a highly physical encounter that included several unsportsmanlike fouls called against the San Sebastian players. Two of those unsportsmanlike fouls were called in a span of a minute late in the fourth quarter, which helped the Red Lions break the game open.
For Robert Bolick, who fired 21 points, the physicality of the game was what made it so much fun to play. He was reminded of the San Sebastian teams of old, the ones that featured Calvin Abueva, Ian Sangalang and Ronald Pascual — teams that fought every step of the way, until the final buzzer.
"Alam niyo, gusto ko makalaban ang San Sebastian talaga, kasi dati pa, kung tiningnan niyo 'yung profile picture ko sa Facebook, katabi ko doon si Abueva, mga 'yun," Bolick said.
"Naglaro kasi sila dati sa Ormoc, at naka-tsinelas pa ako, nanonood ako," he bared. "Ganoon talaga sila maglaro."
For Bolick, it is simply inspiring to watch a team that plays its heart out, no matter the score.
"Tingnan mo kanina — three seconds na lang, gusto pa nila manalo. That's the beauty of San Sebastian," he said. "That's how they play, and I love how they play. Sino hindi mamo-motivate na ganoon ang kalaban mo?"
This is also why the Red Lions have no hard feelings against the Golden Stags, even after players such as Donald Tankoua and Javee Mocon found themselves on the receiving end of hard fouls.
"We all know that it's gonna be a physical game, kasi do or die eh," said Mocon.
"San Sebastian really plays hard. Hindi naman nila intention manakit," added Bolick. "Ang dami naming natutunan ngayon, which is, kahit ganoon ang mangyari, stay focused ka pa rin."
San Beda can definitely use these lessons, as they are up against a powerful Lyceum team in the best-of-3 finals that start on Friday.
"We stayed cool," said Fernandez of his team. "Marami silang intention foul, maraming unsportsmanlike foul sila, and that gave us a chance to balloon the lead. At the end of the ball game, we won it."
"Sabi ko, doon lang tayo makakabalik and makakabawi sa kanila, by winning the ball game. We won this game, so we're happy today, but we still have to go back tomorrow and prepare for Lyceum."
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