SAN Beda’s vaunted defense didn’t seem so scary against Letran in Game Two of the NCAA men’s basketball Finals.
Ronnie Magsanoc admitted on Saturday night that the formidable defense that got the Red Lions this far had failed them at the most crucial time, allowing Letran to force a deciding third game in the NCAA Finals.
“We were not able to make the necessary stops and to take care of the basketball. And in the end, they (Knights) had more desire,” said Magsanoc after the Knights' 62-55 victory in Game Two at the Big Dome.
The two-time defending champions’ defense actually looked impenetrable in the third quarter as they were able to turn a nine-point halftime deficit into a two-point lead at the end of the third quarter.
But the Mendiola-based squad, the best defensive team in the league all season, failed to sustain the effort in the payoff period, where the Knights outscored them, 23-12.
“We played our best defensive quarter in the third. But in the fourth, we allowed the most points, thus negating what we did,” Magsanoc said.
“Nag-try naman (makabalik sa fourth) pero anytime you’re facing five double-digit scorers, hindi mo na alam sino babantayan mo,” added the rookie mentor.
In one of the few times this season, the Lions' defense alowed five players from an opposing side to score in double figures. They were Jonathan Belorio, Mark Cruz, Carlo Lituania, Kevin Alas, and Jam Cortes.
But Magsanoc said it was Belorio and Lituania who were the X-factors for the Knights. One of Belorio’s three triples gave the Knights the lead for good at 48-47 early in the fourth, while Lituania scored nine of his 11 markers in the second quarter when Letran built a 37-28 lead.
“I think Lituania gave them a very huge lift and Belorio played exceptional throughout,” he said.
“Anytime you play offense versus offense sa Letran, mahihirapan ka, but I guess it’s going to be a good teaching point to the Lions,” said Magsanoc, who nonetheless assured that the Lions will bounce back in the deciding game on Thursday.
“We have come this far. All we have to do is look at where our defensive breakdowns were and likewise bakit hindi kami naka-execute down the stretch.”