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    Early NCAA finals rematch set in preseason tourney as Lions, Knights face off next week

    Apr 17, 2014
    The Mark Cruz-led Letran Knights are set to face off with Baser Amer and the San Beda Red Lions in an early clash of favorites. Jerome Ascano

    A NEW-look Letran tries to exact revenge on San Beda as it faces its back-to-back NCAA men’s basketball finals tormentor in its opening game in the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup on April 26.

    After earlier baring the possibility of skipping the preseason tournament, Knights assistant coach Mike Buendia confirmed the Intramuros-based school’s participation in the competition, which unfolds on Wednesday, and bared that their opening game will be against the Red Lions.

    Both teams are in Group B with fellow NCAA squad Lycuem, Far Eatern University, University of San Carlos, and the National Under-17 youth team.

    Buendia said the Knights coaching staff received their schedule in an email from the tournaments officials.

    “Hopefully wala nang changes. Nakaka-ilang palit na kasi ng schedule yung Filoil,” Buendia said in a chat with Spin.ph on Thursday.

    They open their campaign against the Lions in an early NCAA finals rematch.

    “It’s gonna be a different matchup,” said Buendia, the top deputy of head coach Caloy Garcia. “We lost last year’s best local big man, while San Beda retained the core of their championship team.”

    Now without MVP slotman Raymond Almazan as well as Jojo Belorio, Franz Dysam, and Ed Olotu, the Knights are expected to parade 2012 NCAA Juniors Rookie-MVP Bong Quinto, 6-foot-4 former St. Benilde football varsity Chester Saldua, versatile Filipino-Ghanaian forward Felix Apreku, and Fil-American Daryl Singontiko.

    “We became a smaller team, so we’ll maximize our speed,” Buendia said. “With the guards and wings, mabibilis pa naman yung naiwan eh. Ang bigs namin, even though undersized, we’ll try our best na mag-compete.”

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    “We’ll just take it one game at a time and see how our new players jell with the returning players, and try to keep on improving as a team,” a concurrent Rain or Shine assistant mentor added of the Knights, still bannered by Mark Cruz, Kevin Racal, and Rey Nambatac.

    Aside from the preseason tournament, provincial games in Iloilo and in Luzon are also lined up for the Knights in preparation for the NCAA, according to Buendia.

    Buendia said they practiced on Wednesday but are on break until Easter Sunday as some players went home to their provinces. 

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    The Mark Cruz-led Letran Knights are set to face off with Baser Amer and the San Beda Red Lions in an early clash of favorites. Jerome Ascano
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