By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
SOME may view their latest championship with reservation, believing that they had it “easy” since they battled a team that did not have a full complement in the games played in the finals. But the three-peat-winning San Beda Red Lions will have none of that argument as they underscored they are deserving champions who won the title fair and square.
Defeating the Lyceum Pirates, 71-66, in Game Two of their best-of-three National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 94 finals series on Monday at the Mall of Asia Arena, the Lions completed a sweep of the Pirates and book another title, their 22nd overall in the country’s longest-standing collegiate league.
The victory thrust San Beda to its third three-peat and saw it shut out Lyceum in the finals for the second straight year.
In winning their third straight title, the Lions proved to be the steadier team amid the stiff challenge posted by the Pirates, who played with top man CJ Perez, back following his suspension in the series-opener after being found to have violated league rules on applying for the Philippine Basketball Association rookie draft.
Graduating Perez, Lyceum’s leading scorer and heart and soul, reportedly submitted his rookie draft application in time for the deadline set for players considered as Filipino-foreigners without informing the league.
As per NCAA rules, it is mandated that student-athletes inform the NCAA in writing of their intention to be part of a professional league prior to submitting their application.
The league found Perez in violation of that particular rule and after careful evaluation decided to suspend him a day before the series-opener set for Nov. 6.
Some parties viewed the suspension as giving the already-loaded San Beda team an “easy pass” in Game One en route to winning, 73-60, and moving a win away from the NCAA title.
For Lions coach Boyet Fernandez though, such assumptions were unfair as it was not the case and that they worked hard to deservingly get the two victories in the finals even as he said what happened to Perez and his suspension was not San Beda’s fault.
“If you would remember, we beat LPU in the second round with CJ there, and he only scored nine points. It’s not the fault of San Beda that he was suspended. Rules are rules. Lyceum should have known that the draft is coming and CJ being considered as Fil-Am was to file early than local players. They should have checked it. But they did not,” said Mr. Fernandez in the post-game press conference following their title conquest.
“Again it’s not the fault of San Beda. We never participated in the deliberation and the voting on the suspension. But you have to give credit to my players. My players played well in the series. Don’t take that away from them. If you lose one player, somebody has to step up. They did not play well in Game One and it’s not our fault. But I give credit to them for coming back in Game One from 27 points down. But give my players credit. They continued to show they deserve to be champions in this game,” he added.
Mr. Fernandez, nonetheless, acknowledged the good season that Lyceum once again had and gave props to Pirates coach Topex Robinson and the program they have built.
By Michael Angelo S. Murillo