LETRAN goes for the jugular as it braces for a Mapua fightback in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament before an expected full house crowd at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
Claiming a back-to-back championship – and the 19th overall – won’t be easy for the Knights, as coach Bonnie Tan remains concerned on the fitness of the team’s heart and soul as they seek to close out the Cardinals.
“Sabi ng PT (physical therapist) hindi pa 100% si Rhenz Abando tomorrow,” said Tan on the eve of the 3 p.m. match.
Abando went down with a left foot injury after a highlight putback dunk in the third period of Letran’s 68-63 victory over Mapua in last Sunday’s Finals opener.
The Cardinals were leading most of the way until the Knights led in the final 45 seconds with Jeo Ambohot leading the charge.
Letran’s championship experience keyed Game 1’s win victory which hopes to bring into handy when it eyes to deliver the killer blows.
“Heart of a champion. Talagang sinabi ko na ito na yung game na hinihintay natin, wag na nating sayangin yung mga sacrifices natin in two months,” said Tan.
“Defense is the key, yung fourth quarter points nila naging nine points lang and yun, again, heart of a champion,” he added.
A victory will also complete a perfect 12-0 campaign for the Knights in the shortened season. Letran’s fabled rival San Beda was the last team to produce an undefeated season, posting a 18-0 record in 2010.
The setback in Game 1 should be an eye-opener for Mapua to take good care of the lead.
The Cardinals were poised to pull off a reversal, but could not get the job done in moments that mattered.
Game 3, if necessary, will be played next Sunday at a bigger venue, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The NCAA will fete the finest men’s basketball standouts of Season 97 prior to Game 2.
Aside from the season MVP award, which Abando will take it home, the league will also honor the Mythical Team, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Defensive Team and Defensive Player of the Year.
(Filoil Flying V Centre)
3 p.m. – Mapua vs Letran