After 13 straight finals appearances and on the heels of earning back-to-back titles, the San Beda Red Lions are hungry for more.
Winning has been the long-standing tradition of the Mendiola-based school and they don't have plans of stopping any time soon.
On Tuesday, the Red Lions will square off against a familiar foe in the Lyceum Pirates.
"We all know the tradition of San Beda as well as the San Beda community, always looking for a championship and always looking for the finals," said head coach Boyet Fernandez. "We're just making sure we'll make do of the things the community wants us to do, just making it to the finals and defending our crown. That's always the goal of this team: make it to the top two, win the semifinals, and march to the finals."
And even with the suspension of Lyceum star CJ Perez for Game 1, Fernandez knows that the championship won't be handed to them.
"Without CJ, it will be a different rotation from LPU, so I don't know," said Fernandez. "I'm sure LPU will come out really strong tomorrow, with a lot more intensity and effort because they're losing their No. 1 player and scorer. We have to find ways to matchup with that. We prepared for Perez, but of course we can't do anything about that."
San Beda, on the other hand, has no problem with star power with veterans Robert Bolick, Javee Mocon, and Donald Tankoua eager to bring home another title.
Bolick averaged 16.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in the regular season. He is an elite point guard who can single-handedly take over a single game. In last year's finals, Lyceum simply had no answer for the late-game heroics of Bolick. He is a scorer, playmaker, and more importantly, a clutch performer who isn't afraid of the bright lights. Mocon and Tankoua meanwhile provide a strong presence in the paint. The two big men averaged 9.3 rebounds apiece and are the backbone of San Beda's defense.
Lyceum likes to play at a frenetic pace and San Beda's defensive game plan will be critical in the finals. And even though Perez is going to miss Game 1, Fernandez is not letting his guard down.
"We just have to see the adjustments of coach Topex and we'll adjust to that," Fernandez said. "As of now, we're still looking as if CJ's playing there. We're not going to change on a whim because it's still the same with or without CJ - LPU is still a strong team. They played without CJ before and they won their games. They're losing their top scorer and top player but it doesn't mean that they won't play tough and hard tomorrow."