WILL this be the final meeting between the NCAA’s fiercest rivals this season?
Baser Amer hope it’s not as San Beda tries to settle a score against Letran when the two teams square off once again on Monday when the men’s basketball tournament resumes at The Arena in San Juan.
Tipoff is at 6 p.m. with the defending champion Red Lions seeking vengeance from their 67-74 defeat at the hands of the Knights in the first round.
Leveling their head-to-head matchup in the elimination round would not be enough as the game also hopes to determine who the better team is between the two, which could possibly meet in the biggest stage of the tournament later on.
“Gusto naming bumawi,” said Amer, the star point guard from Davao, who will renew his rivalry with Mark Cruz. “It’s a battle of the top two teams and could be a preview of the Finals.”
San Beda defeated Letran, 2-1, in last year’s title series to capture its third straight championship, sixth in the last seven years, and 17th overall title.
With both squads already assured of twice-to-beat advantage that comes with the top two spots in the Final Four, the next time the Lions and the Knights could meet again is in the championship round.
The Lions, sporting a 13-3 win-loss card and a half-game behind the Knights, are not only out to seek retribution but also aim for a share of the lead with their nemesis.
“We are definitely gunning for the top spot and to get back at Letran,” Lions coach Boyet Fernandez admitted.
Fernandez hopes his Lions have learned from their first meeting last August 24 when they played catch-up in the endgame after falling into an 18-point first-quarter hole.
“I know it will not be easy,” Fernandez said. “We have to be more aggressive from the start of the game and we have to be solid both individually and as a team on defense.”
Motivation for San Beda can also come from another team, particularly Mapua, which beat the Lions, 81-76, the last time.
The Knights, on the other hand, hope to ride the momentum of a 75-68 victory over San Sebastian.
The rivals’ juniors’ counterparts face off earlier at 4 o’clock.
Meanwhile, the halted Lyceum-College of St. Benilde seniors’ match will be played before the San Beda-Letran tussle at 1 p.m.
The game, postponed due to a roof leak at The Arena, will resume exactly where it was stopped --at the eight-minute, nine-second mark of the third quarter -- with the Pirates ahead, 32-31, over the Blazers.