By MARK REY MONTEJO
San Beda head coach Yuri Escueta lauded his players’ never-say-die attitude on their way to booking a championship date with Mapua in the NCAA Season 99 men’s basketball tournament.
With their backs against the wall in their semifinal affair with Lyceum, the Red Lions dug deep to outlast the Pirates twice – including an 82-72 victory last Friday, Dec. 1 – that set them up a best-of-three finals with the Cardinals starting on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“Ilang beses ko nang sinabi sa inyo ito na the team could have just folded and say, ‘Next year na lang tayo bawi’, but they came together and said to themselves, ‘Matagal pa ito. Let’s just get it one game at a time,” Escueta said.
Escueta credited their performance in the second round, where they overcame two early defeats before finally getting their offensive rhythm.
“Yun ang pinag-usapan namin eh. Huwag lang tayo sumuko every game. One game at a time lang natin tingnan,” he said.
Escueta also praised the bond and chemistry of his wards, which evolved throughout the season particularly in the crucial stage of the elimination round.
“Sooner or later di namin alam nasa Finals na kami eh, but again ang tingin ko kasi pang six na do-or-die namin ‘to, walang bago [para] samin sa playoffs eh, nag do-or-die na tayo ng ilang beses eh, so tingin ko how they reacted do’n sa mga game na ‘yon really yung character nila na-build, yung chemistry ng team, yung bond nila, iba talaga, sports eh,” Escueta said.
Escueta also praised Lyceum coach Gilbert Malabanan and his players for giving them a good fight.
“Grabe yung effort at energy ng mga players niya, and hindi lang yung system nya, but also how he teaches gives some character to the players, so wala ka talagang masasabi sa Lyceum and don sa school nila,” he said.