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NCAA: Solid defensive effort key for Knights against Stags in KO match

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Letran's Jerrick Balanza, left, drives to the basket during a tune up game against Diliman College at the Aero Center in Quezon City. (Waylon Galvez)

Letran’s Jerrick Balanza, left, drives to the basket during a tune up game against Diliman College at the Aero Center in Quezon City. (Waylon Galvez)

By WAYLON GALVEZ

Games Nov. 5 (The Arena, San Juan)

10 a.m. – San Beda vs CSB-LSGH (Jrs)

1 p.m. – Lyceum vs SSC-R (Jrs)

4 p.m. – Letran vs SSC-R (Srs)

Letran head coach Bonnie Tan emphasized that a solid defensive effort is the main weapon against what he considers a ‘matured’ San Sebastian College-Recoletos squad in the NCAA Season 95 stepladder playoffs.

The third seeded Knights take on the No. 4 ranked Stags in a knockout on Nov. 5, and the way Tan sees it, Letran needs to be on the same page in terms of its game plan – particularly on the defensive end.

“San Sebastian is a very matured team,” said Tan, who made special mention on SSC-R gunner Allyn Bulanadi.

“They have players like Bulanadi, who I think is ready for the next level after college,” he said.

“Together with other veterans, their first five unit gets heavy minutes. So that’s our focus, defend them. If we limit them, I think we have a good chance of winning the first stage of the stepladder.”

Letran coach Bonnie Tan, left, talks to his players after a tune up game against Diliman College at the Aero Center in Quezon City. (Waylon Galvez)

Letran coach Bonnie Tan, left, talks to his players after a tune up game against Diliman College at the Aero Center in Quezon City. (Waylon Galvez)

The match s scheduled at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.

The winner of the game moves to the second stage and takes on second seeded Lyceum of the Philippines University – finalist the last two years – on Nov. 8 at the same venue.

Already waiting in the finals is defending three-time champion San Beda University, which topped the elimination round with an 18-0 record that gave the Red Lions an outright finals berth.

Game 1 of the best-of-three finals series is on Nov. 12 at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.

Letran and SSC-R split their elimination round head-to-head, with the Stags winning in overtime in the first round 102-101 last Aug. 20, and the Knights avenging that loss via a masterful 99-82 win in the second round last Sept. 20.

Letran guard Jerrick Balanza, one of three graduating players for Letran, said the previous results no longer counts. He expressed confidence their second meeting allowed them to figure out the Stags.

“Gawin lang namin iyung lahat ng ipagawa ni coach and tamang execution,” said Balanza, who leads the team in scoring with 15.1 points per game with 3.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists in the elimination round.

“Ako kasi confident ako sa lahat ng ginagawa namin, sa amin ibibigay ito (win). Pinagtutuunan din namin ng pansin dito iyung defense.”

“Kasi yung offense dadating na lang iyun kapag maganda iyung dinipensa namin. Hindi namin iniisip yung score basta madepensahan namin sila, magawa namin yung trabaho namin sa court, OK kami.”

Letran put to test its preparation for the playoffs in a tuneup match opposite Diliman College Thursday at Aero Center in Quezon City. The Knights came out victorious 88-74 against a team with two imports.

Letran's Larry Muyang, right, tries to post up during a tune up game against Diliman College at the Aero Center in Quezon City. (Waylon Galvez)

Letran’s Larry Muyang, right, tries to post up during a tune up game against Diliman College at the Aero Center in Quezon City. (Waylon Galvez)

Larry Muyang, who averages 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds, said they were given three days off after that game but has since resumed practice last Monday.

“Sa amin ayaw namin mabakante, kasi alam naman natin na matagal pa yung laro,” Muyang said.

“Siguro gusto rin ni coach Bonnie na lahat nung pina-praktis namin, ma-apply namin sa tune up para pagdating sa game hindi kami nangangapa.”

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