San Beda tries to battle rust as it launches its bid for a rare title sweep at the expense of Letran when Game 1 of the best-of-three title series in the 95th NCAA basketball tournament is played today at the MOA Arena.
Philstar.com/Luisa Morales
Lions, knights lock horns NCAA title series opener unfolds
Joey Villar (The Philippine Star) - November 12, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — San Beda tries to battle rust as it launches its bid for a rare title sweep at the expense of Letran when Game 1 of the best-of-three title series in the 95th NCAA basketball tournament is played today at the MOA Arena.

The Lions zoomed straight to the finals after sweeping all their 18 elimination round games. But they will enter the 4 p.m. showdown with the Knights a little bit rusty 26 days since their last game on Oct. 17.

“Although we played only one tune up game, our training is non-stop. If there is the rust factor, we have no choice but to shrug it off,” said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez.

San Beda is gunning for its 23rd seniors title. If successful, it will create more distance between the Lions and their closest pursuers, the Knights, with 17 championships.

Of those San Beda victories, 11 came in the last 13 years.

The Lions will also play in their 14th straight finals, underscoring their domination of the league in more than a decade.

If the Lions end up sweeping the Knights in two games, the former will duplicate the feat accomplished by San Beda, then mentored by Frankie Lim, nine years ago.

But Fernandez is not falling into the trap of thinking too far ahead.

“We just want to focus on Game One first before anything else. We think Game One will be a very critical game in this series,” said Fernandez.

Game 2 is set Friday while a decider, if necessary, is set next week.

While San Beda is looking to extend its dynasty, Letran is trying to put an end to it.

The Knights made it to the finals by shocking the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates, 92-88, in the stepladder semis last Friday.

And the Muralla-based cagers hope to ride the momentum of that inspiring victory against LPU.

“We just have to find ways to beat San Beda,” said Letran mentor Bonnie Tan, whose charges lost to the Lions, 66-70, on Aug. 10 and 63-75 on Oct. 1.

Meanwhile, San Beda raked in most of the individual awards with Calvin Oftana snaring MVP honors, Evan Nelle and James Canlas making it to the Mythical First Team and Donald Tankoua claiming the Best Import plum.

In juniors’ action, San Beda likewise shoots for its 23rd crown as it battles LPU, which will make its very first finals appearance since 2011, at 1 p.m.

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