KEVIN Racal can complain all he wants after committing a questionable offensive foul that doomed Letran in its 44-73 loss to San Beda on Saturday in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
But the Knights star can’t question that it was also an unforgiving defense by the Red Lions that frustrated him and factored in the disappointing loss to their long-time nemesis.
While Ola Adeogun returned and gave the Lions a huge boost, it was Jaypee Mendoza who was responsible for shackling Racal.
“When Ola is there, we have a dominant person in the middle, but come to think of it, Ola is just a part of the team,” Lions coach Boyet Fernandez said of his star slotman from Nigeria, who was back in active duty after being benched in the team’s first encounter against Letran for missing practice.
“With or without any player on that team, everybody should step up.”
That Mendoza did as the 6-foot-3 wingman limited Racal, who came in as Letran’s leading scorer with a 15.8 points per game average -- good for eighth in the league and built around a 36-percent clip from beyond the arc -- to just eight points on 3-of-10 shooting, missing all of his three attempts from beyond the arc in 24 minutes of play.
“Jaypee is one of the most unrecognized players, probably because he’s just a role player,” Fernandez said of the fourth-year cager from Tarlac. “But every time he comes in the game, he always plays his best.”
“I know he can stop Racal,” the San Beda mentor added of Mendoza, who drew the offensive foul on Racal late in the second quarter. “He’s a very good defender.”
True enough, Mendoza justified his role and repaid Fernandez’s faith after the coach inserted him in the starting lineup to man Racal.
As a result, he ended up playing the most minutes against the Knights with 27, enough for him to scatter six points, four boards, four assists, and four blocks against three turnovers.