By Val Marvin G. Macanas
Manila, Philippines -- The San Beda Red Lions defeated the Letran Knights, 80-68, to take game 1 of the best of 3 NCAA Men's Basketball Finals on Monday night at the jam-packed SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The game started 8-4 in favor of San Beda in the first 4 minutes of the ball-game then Letran's Kevin Racal, with 3:32 left in the 1st period waxed hot and scored 4 straight points to tie the game at 8 all. From that point on, the game became a tight one.
The seesaw battle extended from the latter part of the 1st quarter up to the 3rd period.
And then all of a sudden, San Beda exploded in the start of the 4th period to establish an enough cushion to fend-off Letran.
The momentum went to the San Beda Red Lion's side as they came out firing from all cylinders in the Final Quarter. They tallied a total of 33 4th Quarter points while Letran only managed to pile up 15 points. That's how tight their defense was on the Knights late in the game.
Coach Boyet Fernandez highlighted his team's sterling defense against Letran during the post-game interview.
"They made stops and then they scored in the other end. That's the story of the ball-game," highlighted Coach Boyet.
Yvan Ludovice and Baser Amer sank numerous three-pointers while big man Ola Adeogun patrolled in the shaded lane to stop Letran's Almazan. Their efforts proved to be enough to sabotage Letran's game-plan and to eventually earn for their team the victory.
Coach Boyet was aware of the efforts of his key players. He gave all the credit to them.
"I give credit again to my players. Ola was in foul trouble but he came back strong in the 4th. Ludovice who made his three point shots, David Semerad stepped up. And also, again Baser Amer, he's been missing shots but he came out in the 4th. What a heart of a champion."
Meanwhile, Coach Caloy Garcia of Letran admitted that they collapsed in the 4th Quarter and that they will do a better job in Game 2.
"In the 4th quarter we just collapsed. I told my second stringers to step-up because we can't rely sa mga starters solely. We also had a bad start in the first half. Definitely we'll comeback stronger in Game 2. We know what San Beda did to Mark Cruz in the game. They defended him very well. We need to step up."
The Red Lions were led by Ola Adeogun who registered 16 points and 11 rebounds. Ludovice and Amer added 11 points apiece. Letran on the other hand, banked on the 22-point output of Mark Cruz. Pro-bound Raymond Almazan started the game well but ended up only having 16 points which is a far cry from his monstrous outputs in the eliminations.
With this big win, San Beda is one win away from taking the NCAA Season 89 Men's Basketball Crown. Since the Finals is a best of 3, they can win the plum in Game 2 if they will be able to once again contain Almazan and the rest of the Knights.
Game 2 is slated to happen on November 14 (Thursday) 2:30 p.m. at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Here's an interesting trivia to ponder on: San Beda is 6-0 in all of their NCAA Finals appearances in the past 7 years when they win game 1.
San Beda (80) -- Adeogun 16, Amer 11, Ludovice 11, A. Semerad 9, Dela Cruz 8, Dela Rosa 8, Abarcar 6, D. Semerad 6, Pascual 5, Sara 0.
Letran (68) -- Cruz 22, Almazan 16, Racal 12, Ruaya 4, Tambeling 4, Belorio 4, Gabawan 4, Nambatac 2, Castro 0, Luib 0, Buenaflor 0.
Quarters: 12-12, 26-24, 47-53, 80-68.