By Jerome Lagunzad
Still humble like he’s ever been, San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez believes the Lyceum Pirates remain as the favorites despite the Red Lions’ morale-boosting victory in the opener of their best-of-three finals for the NCAA seniors basketball crown.
“Yes, we’re still the underdogs. They beat us twice (in the elimination round) and they’re still the best,” he said, refusing to be lulled into any false sense of complacency following the team’s 94-87 win that stopped Lyceum’s 18-game winning run and pulled the Lions closer towards a successful title-retention bid.
“If you total it, they’re 18-1 (win-loss record). We’re 17-2. They’re still the favorites for this (finals series).
We just only won one game. We haven’t won a championship yet.”
But a 21st overall title is within reach anew of the Red Lions, who took full advantage for their championship experience down the stretch where they gave the gritty Pirates a dose of their own medicine on both ends.
Heady playmaker Robert Bolick took charge just when he was needed the most, fast-recovering Cameroonian center Donald Tankoua threw his full weight around the paint and veterans Javee Mocon and Davon Potts played solid on both ends, proving San Beda has enough tools to foil newly-minted MVP CJ Perez and Lyceum’s hard-working crew.
“Kailangan namin talaga, ‘i-match ‘yung heart at energy ng Lyceum. Ang amin lang dapat gawin is ‘yung composure namin at the end, especially the championship experience,” Fernandez said.
“Ang sinabi ko lang sa kanila is, i-enjoy lang namin itong championship na ito because as we all know, everybody has counted us out right now. Today, we proved ourselves na kaya pala namin manalo.”
The 6-foot-7 Tankoua proved he’s back to his dominant form of old following an anterior cruciate ligament injury last year, coming through with game-highs of 27 points and 20 rebounds, nine on the offensive end.