Game Friday
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
3 p.m. — San Beda vs LPU

JACOB Cortez and the giant-slaying San Beda University Red Lions aim to extend their domination of the Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU) Pirates as the two collide one last time for the last National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 99 finals spot at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Mr. Cortez should ride the momentum of his career 28-point masterpiece in an 89-68 destruction of LPU in the first Final Four game at the MOA Arena Tuesday that forced this 3 p.m. sudden death.

The winner of this one will seal the last ticket to the best-of-three finals where the fearsome Mapua University Cardinals, who disposed of the College of St. Benilde Blazers in their own semifinal duel, awaits.

The finale is set either Sunday or Monday at a still unspecified venue.

While he is expected to draw the biggest defensive attention from the Pirates, Mr. Cortez thinks it’s a folly to just focus on him.

Truly, Mr. Cortez wasn’t the only offensive weapon to knock LPU out last time as Yuki Andrada, Nygel Gonzales and James Payosing each drained a pair of triples as part of total 13 San Beda uncorked that game.

For San Beda coach Yuri Escueta, the team with the better defensive execution should prevail.

“We have to lock in defensively and focus on it,” said Mr. Escueta.

LPU’s fate will hinge largely on how it could contain Mr. Cortez and San Beda’s armory of shooters as well as generating offense from its energetic and athletic wingmen headed by Enoch Valdez.

Mr. Valdez had 14 points and nine boards last time, but he would need to do more if he wants to make the finals and prevent it from being his one final game for LPU.

And, like a chess match, Mr. Cortez expects changes in LPU’s approach.

“They’re going to make adjustments, we’re going to make adjustments,” said Mr. Cortez. — Joey Villar