NCAA 95: Boyet Fernandez making sure Red Lions remain in shape ahead of Finals
Santino Honasan on Nov 04, 2019 10:17 AM
“It will be a tough one for us due to the fact that we haven’t played for about three weeks by that game, so sana hindi kami maging rusty. We’re looking for practice games next weekend and the following week para ready kami sa 12th.” - Boyet Fernandez
For the second time in three seasons, the NCAA Men’s Basketball semifinals will be decided in a stepladder format. In Season 93, the breakout Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates rampaged through the elimination round, finishing with a perfect 18-0 record to earn an outright Finals spot.
Defending champions San Beda University, then the second seed, ultimately defeated LPU in two games in the Finals to retain their titles.
Two seasons later, the Red Lions are still the defending champions, but now they’ll be the ones waiting in the wings as San Sebastian, Letran, and Lyceum battle it out to determine who advances to the Finals.
Those three schools represent a very tough pool of possible contenders, according to San Beda head coach Boyet Fernandez.
“Yung tatlong challengers namin going to the stepladder, medyo hindi ka pwede mamili doon sa tatlo dahil malakas din yung teams na yun,” Fernandez told ABS-CBN Sports. “They’re well-coached as well, they have good players na, if they step up the stepladder semis, and they will face us in the Finals, medyo mabigat yung laban na yun.”
The more pressing issue for Coach Boyet however, is how to keep his players in game shape, given that they’ll be on the shelf as those three teams duke it out.
The Red Lions’ last game was back in October 17th when they defeated Lyceum to complete the eliminations sweep. The next time that they see the court will be on November 12th for Game 1 of the Season 95 Finals.
“Ang problema talaga namin is how to make the team active kasi, that’s approximately 24 days before Game 1 on the 12th, so we’re really trying to prepare our team,” explained Fernandez. “Medyo mahirap dahil siyempre, they’re thinking it’s too long pa, mahirap mag-manage pero we’re trying to really prepare the team, we’re practicing the generic type lang, yung defensive schemes, yung offense namin, we’re more focused right now on conditioning and getting the players prepared well, especially sa weights, nagwe-weights kami. Heavy kami ng kaunti ngayon para naman ready kami sa finals.”
To keep the team in condition, Fernandez shared that he hopes to be able to put the them through some practice games prior to the Finals.
“It will be a tough one for us due to the fact that we haven’t played for about three weeks by that game, so sana hindi kami maging rusty. We’re looking for practice games next weekend and the following week para ready kami sa 12th.”
While the extended break is definitely a breath of fresh air for the team, especially after a long season, not knowing who to prepare for remains a concern, says Fernandez.
“We’re concerned about it, kasi mahirap mag-prepare na on the last day of semis, doon mo lang malalaman, and then we only have, if you consider it, three days to prepare for that, kung sino talaga [makakalaban namin]. It will be tough kaya yung ginagawa namin ngayon is we really practice our defensive schemes on a regular basis, [para] kung sino man talaga, at least pagdating namin on November 9th, sa 8th pa lang namin malalaman kung sino kalaban namin, on the 9th, we will just review the things that we have done during the weeks going into the Finals.”
“We also have our gameplan for every team that we’re gonna face. We’ve already had that gameplan, it’s just a matter of finalizing it on the 8th, kung sino talaga kalaban namin. For now, we’re just making sure that we know what our adjustments are, we know what our defensive schemes are, we’ll try to practice it with we’re going to play in the practice games, para alam namin kung ano pa deperensiya, and at ano pang kailangan i-adjust namin,” he detailed further.
Apart from being out of competition for nearly a month, one more thing that Fernandez needs to manage is his team’s confidence.
The Red Lions swept the eliminations, meaning that whoever comes out of the stepladder semifinals, San Beda has already beaten that team twice this season.
Fernandez says that he reminds his boys that the eliminations and the Finals are two very different beasts.
“I’m just telling them that we’re only as good as our last game, and the other teams are really trying to prepare themselves in order to meet us in the Finals and beat us in the Finals, and you know that the Finals is a different situation than the eliminations, masiyadong mabigat yung pressure doon, masiyadong mataas yung achievement doon if you win a championship.”
During the elimination round, the goal was to make it into the post-season and hopefully finish with a top-two seed for a twice-to-beat advantage. San Beda finished unbeaten and earned an outright trip to the Finals.
Now that the first goal of the season is done, the focus for the Red Lions now is to capture the title again. San Beda is gunning for their fourth-consecutive crown and their 23rd overall.
“Sabi ko ang pinag-lalabanan naman natin pagdating sa Finals is the championship, the NCAA crown, so kailangan hindi tayo magiging over-confident,” said Fernandez. “We’re not denying we won against those three teams that are behind us, but we consider them among the best teams in the league, among the strongest teams in the league.”
“Alam naman ng players ko na hindi madali na kunin yung championship, and we always make it sure na yung players narerealize na every game is a very important game, kahit sino pa ang kalaban namin and we always make sure na my players also realize na every game is chance for them to improve and prove themselves that they’re capable of winning a championship,” he continued.
As for who he sees coming out of the semifinals, Fernandez says he isn’t really sure who’s the favorite, but sees Lyceum having the edge as they also be waiting in the wings for the winner of the San Sebastian-Letran tussle.
“Wala akong tulak-kabigin dun sa tatlo eh. The advantage will be with LPU since they’re waiting in the wings who will be the winner between San Sebastian and Letran, but if you look at it, Letran and San Sebastian are considered two of the top teams before the start of the NCAA."