DYNASTY or destiny?
Defending three-time champion San Beda University is out to complete a four-peat while upstart Letran is determined than ever to win its first title in four years and end its archrival’s reign.
Against this backdrop, the Red Lions and Knights clash one last time today in sudden death of their best-of-3 finals battle for the 95th NCAA basketball tournament crown at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The winner-take-all match is set at 4 p.m.
Letran hacked out a shocking 65-64 decision over San Beda in the series opener last Nov. 12, ending the Lions’ 32-game winning streak dating back to last year.
But San Beda got back at the Knights, scoring a 79-76 victory in Game 2 last Nov. 15 to tie the series at 1-1.
Lions coach Boyet Fernandez wants his charges to pick up where they left off.
“I hope we’ll sustain the momentum because playing a tough team like Letran will be hard for us but again I thank my players and the Lord for giving us another chance, another game to fight for,” said Fernandez.
“Hopefully, we can show again what San Beda basketball is,” he added.
Newly-minted MVP Calvin Oftana, James Canlas, Evan Nelle, AC Soberano, Clint Doliguez, and 6-foot-5 Cameroonian slotman Donald Tankoua are expected to lead San Beda’s bid for its 12th title in 14 years and 23rd overall.
In his first year calling the shots for the Intramuros-based squad, Letran coach Bonnie Tan said his wards have nothing to lose.
“No one really expected us to be here and go toe-to-toe with them (Lions) and also give them their first loss after 32 victories,” said Tan.
“It is not about us winning or losing the game. We will just come out to play hard especially it’s going to be the final game in this championship series.”
The Knights will pin their hopes on ace playmaker Fran Yu, graduating skipper Jerrick Balanza, Larry Muyang, Bonbon Batiller, Jeo Ambohot, and Renato Ular in their hunt for their first crown since 2015 when the likes of Mark Cruz, Jom Sollano, and now pros Kevin Racal, Bong Quinto, and Rey Nambatac won it all under coach Aldin Ayo.