Lyceum of the Philippine University head coach Gilbert Malabanan said he doesn’t feel slighted that defending champion Letran College may have seen them as an easier foe to deal with in the Final Four of Season 98 National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament.
“I think they (Letran) have their own strategies and I respect that. That was actually one of the things that motivated them but we’re going to prepare for it,” said Malabanan as he led the Pirates to the semifinals in his second season as a head coach.
The Knights lost their last game in the elimination round, bowing to Jose Rizal University, a team that was just fulfilling its duties in the league.
The defeat sent Letran to the No. 2 spot in the semifinals with College of Saint Benilde taking the No. 1 berth after dumping Arellano University, which dropped to No. 4, and Lyceum winding up at No. 3.
The semifinal showdown begins on 29 November at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan with the Blazers facing the Red Lions at 12 p.m. and the Knights meeting the Pirates at 3 p.m.
Saint Benilde and Letran need only to win one game to advance to the best-of-three final showdown.
Speculation brewed in social media that Letran purposely dropped its last game to avoid facing the Red Lions, a team that defeated the Knights twice in the elimination round.
Malabanan insists his players are all pumped up to prove their worth in the next phase.
“The kids are excited to play in the Final Four and we told them nobody expected us to go that far. The good thing is we proved we are a competitive team and we deserved to play in the Final Four.”
Last time Letran and Lyceum locked horns in the Final Four, the Knights prevailed, 92-88.
Save for Enoch Valdez and Renzo Navarro, the core of Mac Guadaña, Shawn Umali, Omar Larupay will play their first Final Four game on Tuesday for Lyceum.
This could be an advantage for the Pirates as Malabanan said his players can explode at any given time.
“My players are unpredictable. You don’t know who will have a great game but I hope they will all perform when the playoffs,” Malabanan said.
“One thing we need to watch out for is our turnovers. Our turnovers are because of ourselves and we tend to be too fast,” he added.