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Knights wary of Blazers

Reigning champion Letran College will be very cautious when it battles College of Saint Benilde in the best-of-three finals series of Season 98 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament starting Sunday.

Knights coach Bonnie Tan yesterday said clinching their third straight title will not be easy as the Blazers are marching into the finals as the No. 1 team in the country’s oldest collegiate league.

Tan said aside from their championship experience, they don’t have an edge against Saint Benilde, which has a high-powered offense and a very disciplined defense.

“We’re excited to face Saint Benilde since they have been absent in the finals for so long. I hope we give them a good fight,” said Tan, who is making his third straight finals appearance.

“One of the advantages of our championship experience is how to close games, especially in the knockout games. That’s just our advantage because they are the No. 1 team in the league. I hope our guards will be challenged here.”

But the odds are in favor of Letran.

In their two meetings in eliminations, the Knights emerged on top — first was an 81-75 victory last 23 September followed by a 74-66 decision on 5 November.

Tan will be banking on veterans Fran Yu, Brent Paraiso, Tommy Olivario, Louie Sangalang and King Caralipio in their quest for their 20th NCAA crown.

Tipped to challenge them are Most Valuable Player frontrunner Will Gozum, Migs Oczon, Miggy Corteza, Robi Nayve and Jimboy Pasturan, who is out to break a 22-year-long title drought under head coach Charles Tiu.

The Blazers are the highest-scoring squad in the league with 81.67 points per game while the Knights are one of the best defensive teams as they hold their foes to an average of 70.7 points per game.

Paraiso said he will leave it all on the court as he hopes to graduate as a three-time NCAA champion.

“In the finals, it’s not just about execution but getting the best reads on your opponent,” Paraiso said.

“I’m just going to leave it all on the floor. We just need to be composed in the endgame.”

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