The NCAA Season 94 Final Four encounter between the defending champions San Beda Red Lions and Perpetual Help Altas is colored with a peculiar storyline.
Perpetual Help's entire campaign had been in jeopardy after two of its players were questioned for their eligibility prior to the start of the season. Edgard Charcos and Kim Aurin apparently participated in an outside league which would have prevented them from playing this season. The Altas' postseason campaign had been on shaky waters up until Thursday night as the NCAA policy board convened on the matter. But due to a lack of quorum, the Altas have dodged a bullet and will formally compete in the Final Four and face the Red Lions.
First-round meeting: San Beda def. Perpetual, 67-65
Second-round meeting: San Beda def. Perpetual, 80-72
How San Beda got here:
The Red Lions are coming as the number one owning a league-best 17-1 record. They swept the entire second round and are poised to win the title again.
Robert Bolick, Javee Mocon, and Donald Tankoua have been the usual standouts for the three-peat seeking Red Lions. Bolick, in particular, has reached new heights with his consistent showing of scoring and on-court leadership. His season was highlighted by a masterful 50-point performance over the Arellano Chiefs in the first round. Mocon and Tankoua meanwhile are beasts in the shaded area and are the anchor of the San Beda frontline.
Coached by seasoned mentor Boyet Fernandez, San Beda also carries with them a ton of experience. Fernandez is a veteran tactician with a keen eye on scouting opponents. Under his coaching, the Red Lions have relied on their defense more than their potent star power. They constantly preached they'd rather shut teams down than outscoring them in a shootout. They are the number one defensive team, limiting opponents to just 62.2 points and 36 percent shooting.
Aside from the usual stars, San Beda has gotten significant contributions from the bench. Swingman James Canlas has been heralded as the future of San Beda by Fernandez himself and the young prospect has proven that he's not afraid of stepping up. Canlas will be tested in the postseason whether he can shine in the bright lights of the Final Four.
How Perpetual Help got here:
Save for their off-court issues, the Altas have been the breakout team for Season 94. Last year, they finished in ninth place with a forgettable 4-14 record. The arrival of coach Frankie Lim in the offseason, however, created a winning culture and a capable system for Perpetual. Lim, a champion coach himself when he was in San Beda, has rejuvenated the school, transforming a cellar-dweller into a contender.
Fittingly, Lim was able to showcase the potential of his team in his very first game against his former school. San Beda escaped with a two-point win but Lim's squad was right there till the end. It was a preview of the Altas were no longer a pushover team.
One of the players who seemed to have benefited the most from Lim's arrival is Prince Eze. The Altas reinforcement put up MVP numbers this year with averages of 18.2 points, 16.5 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks. He is without a doubt a force in the paint that can single-handedly change the complexion of the game. He is also a clutch performer having two game-winners under his belt, including a buzzer-beater over the previously undefeated Lyceum Pirates.
Edgar Charcos, one of the players in question for his eligibility status, has also been an integral part of Perpetual's rise. More than his five assists per ball game, it's the way he controls the pace and tempo for his team. The Altas like to blitz opponents and catch them off guard on the break. Charcos at point is a luxury for Lim, who constantly wants to play at a fast pace.