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San Beda’s Path to Victory in NCAA Finals: Embracing Self-Improvement against Mapua

MANILA, Philippines—On Wednesday, when Mapua became the first team to land a ticket to the NCAA Season 99 men’s basketball Finals, Clint Escamis said they’ll be “obsessed” with whoever they’ll face in the grandest stage.

That team turned out to be San Beda.

But for the Red Lions, self-improvement will be key for the best-of-three series and not anything else.

“With us, we’ll focus on ourselves. It’s for us to get better in every game and for us to not even try to humiliate our opponents. We want to be the best version we can be for everyone and hopefully, we come away with the win,” said Red Lions coach Yuri Escueta after their 82-72 win over Lyceum at Araneta Coliseum on Friday.

“We’ll prepare for them but we won’t be obsessed.”

The Red Lions didn’t reach the pinnacle of the tournament easily, unlike the Cardinals.

Mapua had a twice-to-beat advantage that gave them a seat to the Finals after just one try, dealing College of St. Benilde a 78-67 beatdown on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.

San Beda, meanwhile, was given a harder mountain to climb. After finishing as just the third seed, the Red Lions had to defeat second-seeded Lyceum twice or they would be bounced out of competition.

So San Beda did what they had to do and they did it in red-hot fashion.

When the Mendiola squad needed it most, the Red Lions waxed hot from deep with 13 made buckets from beyond the arc.

“With our team, we teach our players to take whatever the defense will give us. We’re prepared to take outside shots, we’re prepared to attack close outs and if the threes are given then that’s what we’ll take. I trust my players to make the right decisions.”

“It’s not that we’ll live and die with outside shots but whatever’s given to us, we will take.”

But Escueta didn’t just laud his boys for coming out on top against the opposition. Instead, he took the time to acknowledge his upcoming opponent in coach Randy Alcantara.

Fortunately for the young San Beda coach, there’s someone in the coaching staff that could help him in terms of having a chess match with Alcantara.

“It’s no surprise. Coach Randy has been doing a good job with his team. He has good players and players he’s familiar with… The good thing about this is, we have coach Boyet (Fernandez) in our staff so if he knows any scouting reports or tendencies, he can help us,” explained Escueta in Filipino.

However the tides go on Wednesday when Game 1 of the Finals rolls on at MOA Arena, Escueta knows one thing is for certain.

His boys, who will don the red and white for two or maybe three games, will represent the Mendiola squad that was once so dominant beyond words.

“It’s not going to be easy but every time you wear that San Beda jersey, you want to represent and win that championship for everyone so we’ll prepare and study.”