SAN Beda hopes preparations it made for University of Perpetual Help is sufficient as it collides with the Altas on Thursday when the Final Four of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament gets going at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Tipoff is at 2:30 p.m. with the three-time defending champion Red Lions seeking to book another trip to the Finals and the Altas trying to overcome their mighty opponents’ twice-to-beat advantage to force a deciding game.
After confirming the Altas as their official semifinal opponent only Tuesday afternoon following the decision of the Management Committee to defer the 'larong labas' case against Ryusei Koga, the Red Lions made the most of their lone practice preparing specifically for the Altas on Wednesday.
“Yung game preparation itself lang ang medyo alanganin ng konti,” Lions coach Boyet Fernandez admitted on Wednesday. “But ganyan talaga ang sitwasyon.”
“(Anyway) we’ve been practicing for the last three weeks preparing for the three teams,” the former PBA champion coach added, referring to the two other semifinalists in Letran and San Sebastian.
The Knights and the Golden Stags face off in the 12:30 p.m. opening game, with the former owning a twice-to-beat edge.
The Lions swept their head-to-head encounters with the Altas in the elimination round, first a 72-65 decision before eking out a 78-76 overtime victory in the second round.
Both victories, however, were only determined after the Lions staved off each Altas fightback.
“They nearly beat us in those two games,” Fernandez said. “Perpetual is a very strong, well-coached team.”
Altas coach Aric del Rosario is again counting on rookie sensation Juneric Baloria, skipper Harold Arboleda, and import Nicholas Omorogbe, who is still recovering from a knee injury.
“One hundred percent siya o hindi, kailangan naming siyang pahirapan,” Lions star guard Baser Amer said of the Nigerian forward.
Aside from Amer, Art dela Cruz, Rome dela Rosa, Ola Adeogun are expected to deliver for the Lions. Seldom-used guard Roldan Sara, who has been shining in the last few games, is projected to start.