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    In unfamiliar situation, San Beda forced to go for title the hard way

    Apr 30, 2022
    James Kwekuteye San Beda vs St. Benilde
    James Kwekuteye tries to lead the Red Lions past the Blazers.
    PHOTO: Marlo Cueto

    SAN Beda has established its winning tradition for so long that it feels unusual seeing it in a vulnerable position.

    Losing to Letran, 59-56, on Friday, the Red Lions find themselves relegated to the play-in tournament as the no. 3-ranked team in the ongoing NCAA Season 97 seniors basketball competition.

    That game knocked San Beda out of the top two and gifted Mapua the no. 2 spot that comes with a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four.

    San Beda vs St. Benilde preview

    But coach Boyet Fernandez refuses to be down, saying that despite the odds, the Red Lions still have what it takes to accomplish their goals and avenge their runner-up finish two years back.

    "I still believe we still have a good chance," he said heading into Sunday's third place-playoff against no. 4-ranked St. Benilde.

    Fernandez hearkened it back to NCAA Season 93 in 2017 when the CJ Perez-led Lyceum went 18-0 in the eliminations to gain an outright Finals berth just for San Beda to spoil those perfect plans as the Red Lions swept the Pirates in the Finals.

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    It's much like the same to now, if the coach will be asked, and one thing working for him is as young as this San Beda crop is, it has proven that it can go toe-to-toe against the star-studded Letran team.

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    "At least, the players realize that we're a good team with the way we played and hopefully, we improve from that. At least nakita nila kung paano yung team namin and we'll take that in a positive way," he said.

    James Kwekuteye remained the rock for the Red Lions, but Fernandez was also glad to see young wards like Tony Ynot and Justine Sanchez accept bigger roles all the more in a game as anticipated as the Finals rematch.

    "Those guys we have, magagaling sila talaga pero kulang lang sa exposure. But I'm sure na the San Beda program is safe with them kaya sana magtuloy-tuloy," he said.

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      Still, the focus is on the next game and Fernandez is confident that San Beda will be up to the task for its upcoming match against St. Benilde.

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      "I already laid it out to them. Medyo mahirap yung sitwasyon namin but I'm sure my boys will be ready for everything especially that we'll play St. Benilde on Sunday," he said. "We'll see what we can do."

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      James Kwekuteye tries to lead the Red Lions past the Blazers.
      PHOTO: Marlo Cueto
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