For all the marbles. For championship #17. For the history books. It all came down on one game at the historic Smart Araneta Coliseum. An old rivalry renewed as archrivals squared off once again in the hard court. It‘s the Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights battled against the reigning champions the San Beda Red Lions. BLUE against RED. San Beda and Letran once again in the big stage. Let’s get to it!
Photo ©Karl Carandang
This is the very first NCAA game I got to watch live and living up to the history between these two proud institutions both the Letran and San Beda faithful at the Big Dome were all out cheering for their schools at the same time jeering on their opponents. One thing was, security guards were “demarcation lines” between the Letran and San Beda sides of the Big Dome because of the heated rivalry and the history of brawls between members from both institutions. I was seated on the Letran side of the court since I was with one of my former professors in UST who is now teaching at Letran.
In the game however, it was completely a one-sided affair from the get-go until the end of the game as the Red Lions had full control of the game from start to finish.
In the first quarter, the Red Lions led the Knights 10-18 even if San Beda’s Nigerian import Ola Adeogun was plagued with foul trouble as San Beda’s backcourt of Baser Amer and Anjo Caram caught fire for the Mendiola-based cagers. It was still manageable for the Knights, however the Red Lions doubled the Knights’ output in the by halftime with the score of 34-17. At halftime, only San Beda’s cheering squad were able to perform as Letran’s cheering squad was banned to perform in Game 3 for breaking an NCAA rule for half-time performances. Despite that, the Letran faithful on hand managed to find a way to pump themselves up even though the deficit by their team was huge. Once the third quarter began, the Knights came up swinging as they were able to cut the deficit to 11. Unfortunately for them, they were not able to sustain their momentum and the Red Lions took full advantage of Letran’s sloppy game as they took a 45-25 lead heading into the fourth quarter where they never looked back. Well, I never got to finish the game, because with less than 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter and San Beda. Me and my old prof left the arena for good knowing the game was already decided. We couldn’t bear the burden of witnessing a lopsided defeat. By the time the game was done the Red Lions secured their second three-peat in 7 years and the score was not even close:
San Beda 67-39 Letran
Letran (39) – Cruz 12, K. Alas 11, Cortes 6, Racal 3, Almazan 3, J. Alas 2, Almario 2, Belorio 0, Gabawan 0, Luib 0, Cudal 0
San Beda (67) – Caram 17, Amer 14, J. Pascual 10, Adeogun 6, dela Rosa 5, Koga 4, K. Pascual 4, Mendoza 2, Abarcar 2, Ludovice 2, dela Cruz 1, Bonsubre 0, Lim 0, Villaruz 0, Moralde 0
With their 6th championship in 7 years. San Beda overtakes Letran for the most number of men’s basketball championships at 17. Sophomore guard Baser Amer won the Finals MVP trophy for the Red Lions which is his first in his collegiate career after winning two Finals MVP trophies for the Red Cubs in 2009 and 2010. It was also rookie coach Ronnie Magsanoc’s first championship as a head coach in the collegiate ranks. Magsanoc took over from then head coach Frankie Lim who was handed a 2 year ban by the NCAA the previous season. It is also a sweet ending for the three graduating players for San Beda namely Anjo Caram, Jake Pascual and Melo Lim. As Caram and Pascual leave the Red Lions with four championships while Lim earned three championships. Just like in Katipunan this year, there will be a Bonfire for a third straight seasonat Mendiola today.
Apparently, in all years of my collegiate life so far. It has been the same champion from first year until today in the UAAP and NCAA. In the UAAP it’s Ateneo and in the NCAA it’s San Beda. I hope by next season there will be a new champion in both leagues. I have nothing against Ateneo and San Beda, yet it’s time for a change.
Also with the win, the San Beda Red Lions clinch a spot in the Final Four in the Philippine Collegiate Champions League as they are joined by the UAAP Champions Ateneo Blue Eagles. The other two teams who will complete the Final Four will be the winners of the Metro Manila/Luzon bracket and the Visayas/Mindanao bracket.
As for the Letran Knights, it was a valiant effort from them this season.Outside of the players, the coaching staff and the whole Letran community, nobody expected the Knights to enter the Finals. They even started the season bad. But were able to bounce back and make it back to the Final Four with the #3 seed. In the Final Four, they defeated the San Sebastian Golden Stags twice to punch their ticket to the NCAA Finals. In the Finals, they pushed the Red Lions to a decisive third game. However, their dream run came to a bitter end as theylost Game 3 in a lopsided game which makes it look like a game in the elimination round more than a Finals game.
This was also the final game for two players of the Knights as Jam Cortes and Jonathan Belorio will end their collegiate careers without a championship.
Today also marked the final game for Letran head coach Louie Alas who announced his resignation after the game. Alas called the shots for the Knights since 1998 where he won a championship in his rookie season as head coach as well as two more championships with the Knights (2003 and 2005). So I give a big salute for the man who was not even an alumnus of Letran (Alas came from Adamson University) as he brought glory to the Muralla-based squad in his 12 seasons as coach for the Knights.
THANK YOU COACH LOUIE!
Also another guy from Letran whose future is uncertain is Coach Louie’s son Kevin who is the “heart and soul” of the Knights and the main reason for Letran’s magical run to the Finalsas he is pondering on whether to return to the Knights on his final playing year next season or not at the heels of the immediate departure of his father as head coach of the Knights.
Well, Letran suffered the same fate as the UST this year, both are Dominican institutions who made it to the finals of their respective leagues but both teams were unable to bring home the championship. Both Letran and UST fought opponents with a lot of experience when it comes to the finals. Both teams played their hearts and gave all their own on the harcourt.Both institutions suffered from painful defeats in their bid for championships. Both lost against apparently “Manny V. Pangilinan-backed institutions” (San Beda is MVP’s Alma Mater, while he supported Ateneo until this season when he severed his ties with the university). I even got to say to my former professor’s current students in Letran whom we caught up after the game: “I feel you.” As a fellow Dominican, both Thomasians and Letranites shared the same feeling. However, I believe both the Tigers and Knights will be back even better next season.
An interesting note, in the PCCL, there will be a “Battle of the Dominicans“ as the runner-up in the NCAA, the Letran Knights will face the runner-up in the UAAP,the UST Growling Tigers to determine one of the two teams who will compete in the Finals of the Metro Manila/Luzon bracket.
Meanwhile in Bacolod City, our heroes the UST Growling Tigers faced off once again, against the Ateneo Blue Eagles at the Sandugo Unigames. The game went into overtime, however the Growling Tigers fell short as hometown hero Clark Bautista missed a potential game winning three pointer as they lost to the Blue Eagles 56-58.
So that ends another season of NCAA Basketball.
Once again, Congratulations to the San Beda Red Lions for their second three-peat in 7 years.
Congratulations as well to the Letran Knights for a valiant effort all season long. They literally came back from the grave at the bottom of the standings to make it back to the Finals.
Until next season.
Animo San Beda!