MANILA, Philippines – For the first time in NCAA Season 94, the defending champion San Beda Red Lions looked mortal against third-placer Letran Knights.
Had it not been for the heroics of Finals MVP Donald Tankoua and reserve AC Soberano, San Beda wouldn't have escaped the big bodies of Letran with an 80-76 overtime win last Friday, August 10.
Although Letran head coach Jeff Napa was frustrated at blowing a shot for solo second place, he gave credit where credit is due.
"Give credit sa San Beda," Napa said. "Talagang their experience, talagang andoon sa highest level. We have to catch up. Kung nasa Everest sila, 'yun 'yung kailangan naming puntahan, 'yung Everest na 'yun.”
(Give credit to San Beda. Their experience is really at the highest level. We have to catch up. If they’re on Everest, that’s where we need to go, to that point.)
Napa's boys tried their best to scale the Red Lion mountain, but were ultimately turned back just near the peak. Do-it-all man Bong Quinto posted a 21-point, 11-rebound double-double with 4 assists, while his fellow graduating star JP Calvo dropped 14 points, 4 boards, 6 assists and 3 steals.
Currently sitting behind undefeated Lyceum and San Beda at 4-2 with the first round winding down, Napa is looking forward to beating the benchmark NCAA teams to establish that Letran's greatness has returned.
While they posted back-to-back 9-9 records and missed the Final Four in the last two seasons, they were also the last team to dethrone the league juggernaut San Beda for the Season 91 title three years ago. The Red Lions would have been riding an NCAA title 8-peat dating back to 2011 had Letran lost in 2015.
"Siguro, eto 'yung kailangan naming pagdaanan kung gusto naming umabot ng championship or whatsoever. Eto 'yung character test para sa amin talaga na to beat a stronger team, to emphasize doon sa mga schools na we're here – Letran, andito na. Humanda na kayo."
(Maybe this is what we need to go through if we want to reach the championship stage or whatsoever. This is the character test for us to beat a stronger team, to emphasize to other schools that we're here – Letran is here. Get ready.)
Right in front of the Knights is the perfect follow-up opponent – the 7-0 LPU Pirates – whom they face on Friday, August 17. If the San Beda loss was any indicator, Lyceum is in for a long Friday night. – Rappler.com