Lions, Pirates clash in KO tiff

Joey Villar - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Jacob Cortez and the giant-slaying San Beda Red Lions aim to extend their domination of the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates as the two collide one last time for a spot in the NCAA Season 99 finals.

The two teams slug it out at 3 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in one last face-off to determine which side sets a Last Dance with the Mapua Cardinals.

Cortez should ride the momentum of his 28-point masterpiece in an 89-68 rout of LPU in their previous tiff at the MOA Arena Tuesday.

While he is expected to draw the biggest defensive attention from the Pirates, Cortez thinks it’s a folly to just focus on him.

“If ipo-focus lang nila sa akin, feel ko disadvantage yun kasi grabe din ang confidence ng teammates ko, and it plays a big role sa game ko,” said Cortez, son of former PBA standout Mike.

Truly, Cortez wasn’t the only offensive weapon that hurt the Pirates last time as Yuki Andrada, Nygel Gonzales and James Payosing each drained a pair of triples as part of the total 13 San Beda uncorked that game.

For San Beda coach Yuri Escueta, the team with the better defensive execution should prevail.

“We have to lock in defensively and focus on it,” said Escueta.

LPU’s fate will hinge largely on how it could contain Cortez and San Beda’s armory of shooters as well as generating offense from its energetic and athletic wingmen led by Enoch Valdez.

Valdez had 14 points and nine boards last time, but he would need to do more if he wants to make the finals and prevent it from being his one final game for LPU.

And, like a chess match, Cortez expects changes in LPU’s approach.

“They’re going to make adjustments, we’re going to make adjustments,” said Cortez.

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