The NCAA defending champs came into the court nursing back to back losses from UE and FEU last week. It was the first time that the Lions lost back to back games since 2006, I think. Hardcore fans raised their doubts on the winnability of this powerhouse lineup.
Since their return from the US training, San Beda found itself in consecutive close ballgames. The game today marked their 2nd taste of the overtime period in weeks. Trailing most of the way, I was close to biting my nails as I closely monitored the live updates in the Bedista and Gameface sites. It was pure torture, as I saw the ugly side of hardcore RL fans. Yes, we are sore losers TO THE CORE. Therefore, darn afraid to lose!!! The Shoutbox was filled with negative vibes, with remarks ranging from dipping performance level by the starters, to a revamp of the coaching staff! I don’t know if this was how Bedans cope with pressure. Then again, it was more than I can bear!
As both teams fought tooth and nail, the Bedans began to inch closer to the seemingly insurmountable FEU lead. No explosive rallies, just honest to goodness perseverance on defense, and slow but sure offense. Bam Gamalinda exuded his game long brilliance, leading all scorers with 20 markers. Garvo Lanete is slowly becoming this team’s next spitfire, with his unnerving rainbow connections and daredevil drives to the basket. Chico Tirona proved to be Frankie Lim’s surprise package in the extra period, coming off the bench to drill in two straight baskets. Star of today’s show though was Sam Ekwe, as he converted the last shot in regulation, sending the game into overtime. He was at the receiving end of the inboundpass from Bam Gamalinda. As he posted for the shot, he leaped, lost the ball in mid-air, tried again and converted with a split second left. It was another cardiac finish, yet again for the Lions. Gladly, they won this one.
I knew somehow that the heartbreaking losses of last week will teach very valuable lessons to the players and coaches, alike. Ekwe is back in the middle, where he plays most effectively. No more of the hurried shots and more of patient execution. Coach Frankie continues with experimenting new combinations, which I like. The sudden move to field in Tirona caught the Tams unaware. The last play of regulation was a surprise too. Finally, a set play in the dying seconds, yahoo!!
Frankie Lim is slowly learning the ropes, the players developing nerves of steel. These are things they will only learn in losing. This team is well-poised to claim that three-peat! Doubters step aside, coz the Red Lions are back in business! Animo San Beda!