DID Letran intentionally lose its final elimination game to Jose Rizal University to gain a more favorable draw in the NCAA Season 98 Final Four?
It seemed like it to many as the Knights' 87-71 loss to the Heavy Bombers on Wednesday relegated them to the No. 2 spot and a clash against no. 3 Lyceum.
More importantly, Letran avoided a rivalry game against No. 4 San Beda, the only team it has yet to beat in this campaign.
But Letran coach Bonnie Tan insisted otherwise.
"Medyo nag-relax lang 'yung team kaya sana maka-recover kami for the Final Four," he sighed.
St. Benilde coach Charles Tiu obviously feels otherwise, after the Letran loss made the Blazers the top seed and the semifinal opponent of the Red Lions.
The Letran loss "wasn't really a stunner. Saw it coming from a mile away," said the Blazers coach in a response posted on Twitter.
Tan, however, argued that there's really no easy draw when it comes to the Final Four and maintained that LPU is just as dangerous of an opponent as San Beda is.
"Lahat pantay-pantay na ngayon. Best of the best lahat," he said. "LPU has a good program. We're expecting na kahit sinong makatapat namin is mabigat."
"Yung LPU, mabibilis sila, a run and gun team kaya sana maibigay namin yung 100-percent namin."
Even Fran Yu expressed his dismay at how this season finale put an anti-climactic end to the Muralla side's impressive 13-5 run in the eliminations.
"Siguro 'yung slow start ng starting five, kami ang magdi-dictate ng game," he lamented after Ry dela Rosa's hot shooting allowing JRU to take the 48-38 halftime lead.
"Na-shoot lang din halos lahat ng tira nila tapos hindi kami maka-execute."
Letran's defense was so filled with holes it allowed JRU to shoot 47.9-percent from the field with five Heavy Bombers scoring in double figures led by dela Rosa's 22.
In contrast, the Knights were just far too careless with the leather, turning the ball over 17 times which led to 18 easy points for the Kalentong side.
"Nakakalungkot lang kasi lalo na sa senior players na graduating, this is their final elimination game so sana magandang memories yung naiwan," lamented Tan.
Letran and Lyceum split their season series, with LPU taking the first round matchup, 82-75, on Oct. 2, and Letran gaining revenge with a 69-64 escape back in Oct. 28.
Letran hasn't been able to hurdle San Beda in their two matches this season, losing in the first round, 76-68, on Sept. 30, and getting blown out, 91-77, last Nov. 16.
Yu, who finished the game with 10 points, four assists, one rebound, and one steal, also stressed that starting from now, it's all business for the Knights as they can't afford to take anyone lightly in their three-peat drive.
"Sinabi ko sa teammates ko na mag-ready sila sa practice dahil back to zero na lahat. Kailangan namin manalo ulit sa LPU bago mag-isip sa Finals," he said.
The Manila-born guard, though, made it clear who he wants Letran to meet in the Finals.
"Gusto kong makalaban yung San Beda ulit kasi natalo kami ng dalawang beses kami sa kanila, so gusto naming bumawi."