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Rivals San Beda, Letran clash in NCAA Finals Game One

by Niel Victor Masoy, November 12, 2019 12:33pm

San Beda University (SBU) and Colegio de San Juan de Letran (CSJL) are set to add another chapter to their age-old rivalry as they clash in Game One of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) season 95 Men’s basketball tournament Finals Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Game time is at 4:00 p.m.

The Red Lions are out to grab their fourth straight title (23rd overall), while the Knights look to won its first title (18th overall) since winning it all at the expense of the former in 2015.

San Beda put up one hell of performance this season 95 as they swept the elimination round (18-0) which gave the Mendiola-based school an outright Finals berth.

Red Lions head coach Boyet Fernandez recognized the feat they achieved in the eliminations, but being the perennial champions that they are, the multi-titled bench tactician wants another title no less. 

“It’s a fulfillment that we made this achievement (elimination sweep), but our job is not yet done,” remarked Fernandez.

This year’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Calvin Oftana couldn’t agree more with what his coach said.

“We’re not done yet. We’re looking for the championship. This is nothing (sweep) for us,” uttered the 6-foot-5 forward. 

Oftana, together with fellow Mythical team members in James Kwekuteye and Evan Nelle, and also Best Foreign Player in Cameroonian center Donald Tankoua, looks to spearhead the charge for San Beda. 

On the other hand,  Letran had to go through the eye of the needle to meet San Beda in the Finals for the first time since coach Aldin Ayo stirred the former to the championship four years ago.

The Knights finished as the third seed team with a 12-6 record after the eliminations.

They then topped the fourth seed San Sebastian College Recoletos (11-7) in the first phase of the stepladder Semifinals last Tuesday, November 5, and outlasted the second seed Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU) Pirates in another knockout match in the second phase of the Semis last Friday, November 8, to reach the Big Dance.

Letran head coach Bonnie Tan knows full well that conquering their rival in San Beda is a difficult task, but he said that they’re facing the challenge head-on.

"We all know that San Beda is unbeaten this season. But we’ll make sure that we’re not going to waste this opportunity of getting to the finals,” remarked Tan. 

Graduating player and Knights team captain Jerrick Balanza - who was part of the 2015 Letran champion team - aims to lead Letran, while Most Improved Player Fran Yu as well and big man Larry Muyang are also expected to be at the forefront of the Knights’ attack.

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