Consistency will be the key as the Mapua Cardinals seek to end a long title drought when they confront the San Beda Red Lions in Game 1 of their best-of-three finals series in the 99th National Collegiate Athletic Association Wednesday at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.
The Cardinals will look up to MVP candidate Clint Escamis and Paolo Hernandez as their leaders in their quest to win their first cage crown in 32 years.
Game 2 is set Sunday also at the MOA Arena, while a decider, if necessary, is Dec. 17 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Both teams enter the finals with winning streaks, with Mapua having the momentum of a seven-game run, while San Beda boasts of a 6-game surge.
“Hindi ito ibinigay sa amin nang ganoon kadali. Pero siyempre, ang focus namin diyan ay paano namin itutuloy na maging consistent, with the help of these two veterans, Clint Escamis and Paolo Hernandez,” said Cardinals’ coach Randy Alcantara.
The Red Lions will definitely make things hard for the Cardinals, with their winning tradition putting them in the finals for the 15th time since 2006.
San Beda is expected to bank on the big games of Jacob Cortez in its bid to claim their 12th crown.
“At the start of the season, our goal really was—like every team in the NCAA—the championship, so one step closer,” said Red Lions’ coach Yuri Escueta.
Mapua’s tough defensive stance will be tested by the Red Lions’ outside shooters and three-point specialists, who had 26 triples overall in their clash with the Lyceum Pirates in the semis.