Player departures turn San Beda's NCAA title defense a tough one

Ralph Edwin Villanueva - Philstar.com
Player departures turn San Beda's NCAA title defense a tough one
San Beda head coach Yuri Escueta (left) and Jacob Cortez

MANILA, Philippines -- With key subtractions in the team, the San Beda Red Lions are bracing for a tougher title defense come NCAA Season 100, head coach Yuri Escueta said.

Escueta, who led San Beda to glory last year, lost guard Jacob Cortez to the La Salle Green Archers during the offseason, as well as seniors such as Peter Alfaro and Cliff Jopia.

Despite having new faces in the squad, the coach stressed that it’s going to be harder to retain the championship, with other teams getting stronger as well.

“As I said, it’s gonna be harder to defend our throne because we lost key guys and at the same time, all the other teams got stronger,” Escueta told Philstar.com at the sidelines of the Collegiate Press Corps Awards Night Monday evening.

“So, it’s gonna take a lot of hard work to defend the title. We’ll do our best to be able to defend the title,” he added.

James Payosing will continue to lead the Red Lions’ den, along with Yukien Andrada and Jomel Puno.

San Beda won over the top-seeded Mapua Cardinals in a thrilling three-game finals series in December last year.

Payosing was named as the Finals Most Valuable Player.

Escueta said that it will take a village to fill in the void of those who departed from the team.

“Hopefully, it’s not just one guy, but a lot should step up to replace not just Jacob, but also the leadership of Peter Alfaro and the presence of Clifford Jopia,” he said.

“So hopefully not just one, but lots of them would step up.”

The mentor also stressed that they do not see themselves as the team to beat last year despite being defending champions.

“I don’t think [we’re the team to beat.] Just like last year, we were never seen… but, it all depends on how the players gel and how the players work together.”

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