Almazan seeks twin feats: MVP plum, NCAA crown
Almazan seeks twin feats: MVP plum, NCAA crown
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - November 9, 2013 - 12:00am

Game today (San Juan Arena)

12 noon – CSB vs SSC-R (jrs stepladder semis)

Game on Monday (Mall of Asia Arena)

2:30 p.m. - SBC vs CSJL (Srs Game One)



MANILA, Philippines - Letran center Raymond Almazan romped off with the Most Valuable Player plum in the 89th NCAA seniors basketball tournament, an accolade he intends to top off with a title for the Knights.

The 6-foot-7 Almazan, a draftee of Rain of Shine in the PBA, logged 55.61 statistical points (SPs) built around solid averages of 14.7 markers, 14.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks to emerge as the season’s top performer.

He won the coveted plum over San Beda’s Nigerian slotman Ola Adeogun (50.33 SPs), interestingly his main opponent inside the paint when the Knights make another run at the crown held by three-peat champ Red Lions beginning Monday.

“Nagbunga ang pinaghirapan, pero hindi pa tapos ang trabaho, mayroon pa kaming dapat trabahuhin (Our hard work paid off but we still have work to do in the finals),” said the 24-year-old Almazan.

The pride of Bataan scored a double in the individual awards that will be handed out in Game Two of the best-of-three finals on Thursday, as he also snared the Defensive Player of the Year plum for the second consecutive season. 

Joining him and Adeogun in the Mythical 5 are Perpetual Help’s Harold Arboleda (46.78), Emilio Aguinaldo College’s Noube Happi (46.56) and another Altas, Nosa Omorogbe (44.71). 

Perpetual’s Juneric Baloria copped Rookie of the Year honors as he placed 11th in the SPs race while Jose Rizal’s Michael Mabulac netted the Most Improved Player plum.

Flashing MVP form, Almazan came through with a near triple-double in second-seeded Letran’s 85-58 annihilation of No. 3 San Sebastian in Thursday’s Final Four. In his first game since getting drafted, Almazan sizzled with 19 points, hauled down 23 rebounds and had a whopping nine blocks as the Knights secured the first ticket to the finals.

Hours later, 6-foot-9 Adeogun and the top-ranked Red Lions turned back No. 4 Perpetual, 70-51, to set a collision course with Letran.

Almazan cherishes the opportunity to end his collegiate career with a bang and at the same time help the Knights redeem themselves from a shameful setback to the Lions in the finals last year. The Lions bamboozled the Knights in the rubbermatch for the 2012 crown, 67-39.

“Sa amin, yung finals ngayon, hindi na mangyayari yung last year. Bibigyan namin sila ng magandang laban. Di kami magpapabaya, magkamatayan sa court, buhos namin lahat, puso (The 2012 meltdown will not happen this time. We’ll fight it out furiously, we’ll give it out all),” said Almazan.

Adeogun braces for a bruising battle with Almazan and the vengeful Knights.

“I know last year, they lost to us so I’m sure they’ll be more physical, more aggressive against us. We always expect that from Letran, their No. 1 enemy is San Beda, they want to get back at us but we’ll be ready.”

As to his matchup with Almazan inside the paint, Adeogun said: “He’s good, if he’s not, he won’t be drafted in the Top 3 (of the PBA rookie draft). But I don’t look at the match-ups, I just play with my team because we’re more on team basketball.”

Meanwhile, La Salle Greenhills and San Sebastian tangle today in the stepladder semis of the juniors division at 12 noon at San Juan Arena. Winner of the KO match will earn the right to face unbeatean San Beda in the finals beginning Monday. The Red Cubs enjoy thrice-to-beat advantage.

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