UPSTART Letran jolted San Beda back to its senses last Tuesday, hacking out a 65-64 win in Game 1 of their best-of-three title duel for the 95th NCAA basketball crown.
The numbing loss ended the Red Lions’ 32-game winning streak dating back to last year but came with a silver lining, according to coach Boyet Fernandez.
Fernandez said the monkey is now off their backs. “The pressure is off our backs right now,” he said.
The thing to do now, Fernandez added, is to lick their wounds fast and recover.
“We just have to suck this up and move forward for Friday. I told my boys, just accept the pain, fight the pain, and when you go home, you think about the things that we did not do well,” said Fernandez.
“But eventually, you think about the things that we did well because, well, we limited Letran to 65 points, and its average is 86 points per ball game the last 20 games. If we can still do that on Friday and make our shots, then we give ourselves a chance for Game 2,” he added.
Letran goes for the jugular in Game 2 tomorrow at the same venue. A rubber match, if necessary, is set next Tuesday also at the MOA Arena.
A long 27-day respite partly spelled doom for the Lions, according to Fernandez, whose squad came off an 85-62 thumping of Lyceum last Oct. 17, the last time they played before the finals opener.
“As I’ve said, there’s an advantage and disadvantage of not playing in 27 days but I cannot blame my players for that because we made ourselves an 18-0 team that’s why we made it to the finals right away. That’s the advantage, the disadvantage is the long layoff,” said Fernandez. “I will always take the blame every time we lose.”
Sophomore guard Evan Nelle led San Beda with a game-high 20 points but the league-leader in assists only had one dime, while James Canlas and MVP Calvin Oftana, who missed crucial three-point tries down the stretch, added 11 markers apiece.