NCAA: Mapua, San Beda open fire

December 6, 2023 Theodore P. Jurado 159 views

SAN Beda may have been swept by Mapua in their elimination round head-to-head, but coach Yuri Escueta believes that teamwork will make the dream work in the NCAA men’s basketball Finals.

“Basketball is a team game, you can’t win with just one or two guys, you really have to have the other guys to step up also and pieces need to start to fall in the right place for this to happen,” said Escueta.

“And what’s nice about this is their camaraderie, yung bonding nila with each other. Kaya they gave each other confidence and trust, and they know they have everyone behind their back and everyone’s trust may tiwala sa isa’t isa,” he added.

The third-ranked Red Lions and elimination round topnotcher Cardinals open their best-of-three title series at 2 p.m. today at the Mall of Asia Arena.

San Beda, which eliminated No. 2 Lyceum of the Philippines University in the Final Four, is making its 15th championship stint in the last 17 seasons.

Mapua, meanwhile, bundled third-ranked College of Saint Benilde in the other Final Four pairing, to reach the biggest stage for the second time in three seasons.

For Escueta, every single member of his squad is just as important as the other.

“As I said nga there’s Jacob (Cortez), there’s Yuki (Andrada), but as important as those guys are even until the 15th player and 18th player I have sa lineup ko. Kasi sa practices grabe kung paano ipush ng third group yung first and second group,” said Escueta.

The Red Lions hope to find way how to neutralize the Cardinals’ top guns Clint Escamis and Warren Bonifacio.

Coach Randy Alcantara said that Mapua is extra motivated to make it back to the Finals and refused to lose sight of their goal of another championship, which the school last tasted in 1991.

Incidentally, Alcantara was part of the Cardinals squad that won back-to-back titles.

“Sabi nga noong pregame, nung against JRU nga motivation namin makabawi, ngayon one game away na lang na sa Finals na kami, so kailangan doble pa namin, i-push pa namin yung sarili namin at lalo kaming magtiwala at dumisiplina doon sa depensa namin,” said Alcantara.

“Ayun, team effort, teamwork, and trust sabi ko nga sa mga players. Nadala namin hanggang doon sa pangarap namin kasi kung ito Finals na, hindi ganoong kadali. Kailangan doble, triple trabaho namin,” he added.