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Looking at the Letran-San Beda Filoil match

MANILA, Philippines – It’s just the preseason, but the way these two teams played it was as if it was for the championship. It took two overtimes to decide it in the Red Lions’ favor.

Pulsating. Riveting. And as always, intense. If you paid money to watch last Saturday’s opening of the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup, this match alone was worth the price of admission.

I know it’s just the preseason but nevertheless, here are some thoughts:

San Beda’s winning ways no longer surprise me. Even for a team that isn’t bristling with the weaponry it once head, they can still put up the points.

What surprised me honestly was Letran.

No Raymond Almazan. No Jonathan Belorio. No John Tambeling. And No Franz Dysam. Well, they just keep on ticking.

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The hustle, energy and never-say-die spirit continue for this team of – with all due respect here – no names. Maybe Rey Nambatac is the closest to a big name coming out of Letran high school as not much was expected of Mark Cruz, who people didn’t think would do well in college.

But Cruz is one of those best pound-for-pound players who seemingly can get a shot of against anyone.

It’s tough that Letran lost three key players in Nambatac, Cruz and Kevin Racal to foul trouble but the guys left on the floor were pretty good. Rey Publico had potential last year but this year, yowza! Imagine if he weren’t in foul trouble as well.

Jamil Gabawan is one of my favorite college players. He’s one of those classic Letran tough guys who does not flinch, does all the dirty work, and has terrific game. He paired with Belorio last year in doing all of that but it looks like this year, he has another tag team partner in Ian Dela Peña who has a good medium range shot. Ola Adeogun could not push him back at all! That left me shaking my head. He tried several times but couldn’t do so.

The other newbies – Daryll Singkontiko and Chester Saldua – aren’t so bad at all. They can shoot and are the active sort.

Felix Apreku could be in the mold of George Allen; one of those wondrous under-sized Perpetual Help Altas forwards of several years ago. Could be a defensive stopper with loads of hustle and speed.

They were too far behind in rebounds – 57-41 to San Beda. So they need to gang rebound. But without that man in the middle to guard the likes of Ola Adeogun they’ll be in foul trouble a lot.

Letran has never been one to marshal their fouls because of their physical game. I am not even venturing about changing their style of play. They found a style they are comfortable with and it works for them. But foul trouble is something they do not need especially with their thin front line corps.

Furthermore, I am not sure if it’s a good idea to put Rey Nambatac on Baser Amer. Letran needs his offense to complement Mark Cruz. Singkontiko and Saldua will score but we’re not sure if they can be consistent in their play. So Nambatac and Kevin Racal – especially Kevin Racal – need to play better.

For San Beda to win it all again, they will need their entire team to chip in. Aside from Amer, the only one who can put points on the board on a regular basis are Art dela Cruz and Adeogun. Francis Abarcar could be that fourth scoring option. This kid can quarterback and can also hit big shots. It is his misfortune that those big minutes are eaten up by Baser.

Head coach Boyet Fernandez said that he didn’t play his rookies during crunch time with that game really close. But we can expect others like Radge Tongco and Javee Mocon get more playing time. Mocon can be that guy to replace Rome dela Rosa if the Semerad brothers do not play well.

The game of the Semerad brothers seems to have gone down after their first two years. Anthony played well in this match. David needs to pick it up some. Because if the brothers do – I don’t see any NCAA team stopping them.

Remember this is just the preseason. And this is just my take away from that match.

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