IT was a minor bump on the road that will only serve defending champion San Beda in its journey toward sustaining supremacy in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Red Lions coach Boyet Fernandez admitted the team’s shocking 76-81 setback to lowly Mapua on Monday night was a tough pill to swallow, but nevertheless believes it will only toughen them come the Final Four and beyond.
“The loss was a tough one, credit to coach Atoy and his players for a job well done,” Fernandez said a day after the defeat that was so disappointing the Lions left The Arena in San Juan faster than usual.
“But it will be a test of character to the whole Red Lions team as we look forward to the playoffs,” he was quick to add.
Although Art dela Cruz and Rome dela Rosa shone with 23 and 17 points, respectively, Baser Amer could only muster seven points on 3-of-9 shooting in 31 minutes and failed to take over at crunchtime.
Overall, the surprisingly game Cardinals shot better than the three-time champions (52 to 39 percent), outrebounded their victims, 45-39, and registered six more assists than San Beda with 23.
The loss -- only the third in 16 games -- not only derailed the league-leading Lions from seizing one of the two twice-to-beat incentives in the semifinals, but also allowed second-running archrival Letran to move just a half-game behind.
The league’s most successful cage team with 17 men’s titles overall, including the last three and six of the last seven years, the Lions have two games left in the elimination round, against Arellano and the Knights.
“It will be a tough task, but we will be up to the challenge,” Fernandez said.