MANILA, Philippines – The San Beda Red Lions had been undefetead in nearly 15 months. In that span, they won 32 straight games, including an impressive finals sweep to cop an NCAA championship three-peat.
Even after losing superstars Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon, the Boyet Fernandez-coached squad chugged along and swept this season’s elimination round anyway, like it was no big deal.
Then all that power came crashing down last Tuesday, November 12.
Led by an army of players who had little to no awards attached to their names, the Letran Knights delivered a stunning blow to the mighty San Beda dynasty by taking the opener of the Season 95 men’s basketball finals, 65-64.
And Letran tries to complete the improbable as the Knights go for a sweep of the Red Lions in Game 2 of the best-of-three title series at 4 pm on Friday, November 15 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Bonnie Tan-coached squad just did everything right in Game 1. They held new MVP Calvin Oftana to 11 points on 12 shots while clamping Mythical Five point guard Evan Nelle to one assist, albeit with 20 points.
James Canlas and Clint Doliguez shot themselves out of the game as well with a combined 6-of-30 shooting clip while Best Foreigner Donald Tankoua also had a rare off night.
However, this is exactly what makes the Red Lions such a formidable adversary. At their worst, they still only lost by a single point against arguably the best candidates to put a stop to their four-peat bid.
Now, the Knights have to doubly prepare for the beasts they have stirred from their sleep if they want to win their first NCAA title in 4 years.
Led by Most Improved Player Fran Yu, captain Jerrick Balanza and veterans Bonbon Batiller, Larry Muyang and Ato Ular, Letran braces for a comeback that only three-time champions can deliver.
Will the Red Lions regain momentum or will the Knights deny San Beda the path to a four-peat?
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