The San Beda Red Lions defeated their first eight opponents of the season by a variety of ways. They blew out some and they had to fight tooth and nail against the others. They were poised to repeat their magical run last year in spite of a cruel twist in the early part of this season: losing their main man in the middle, American import Sudan Daniel to a season-ending ACL injury.
The Red Lions were left looking for someone to step up in Daniel’s absence and Dave Marcelo answered their call. The veteran big man showed why he was one of the hottest prospects out of high school back then. He showed the world that although he played second fiddle for the most of his career, he is willing and able to step up when it matters most. Marcelo's teammates followed his example, with the dividends paying off greatly in a championship series that saw role players stepping up to the plate with resolve.
Dominant as the Red Lions were throughout the season, they did encounter a bump in the road. At the tail-end of the first round, the two undefeated teams, San Beda and San Sebastian clashed in a rematch of last year’s NCAA Finals. In that game, the San Sebastian Stags defeated the San Beda Red Lions which effectively ended the Lions' winning streak that spanned a glorious one and a half seasons.
The Red Lions were devastated but unbowed. They showed grit. They licked their wounds and prepared for the inevitable rematch with their first round conquerors. The Red Lions would have preferred to face an undefeated San Sebastian team in the second round, if only for the chance of returning the favor by breaking their own winning streak but the Knights of Letran beat them to the task.
In the end though, the second round San Beda-San Sebastian encounter turned out to be something the Red Lions really did not need to win. They were already in the Final Four with a twice-to-beat advantage but, true to form, they did not play relaxed. They settled their regular season grudge with San Sebastian. Then they beat the Stags again, and again, and again. San Beda’s finishing kick featured four wins over the Stags with an easy victory over Jose Rizal University sandwiched in the middle.
And like true champs, the Red Lions won as a team, doing it under the guidance of Coach of the Year Frankie Lim.
NEXT: Delivering the final blows
PHOTOS BY: RYAN ONG