Nobody gave the San Beda Red Lions a chance to win championship prior to S99

Nobody gave the San Beda Red Lions a chance to win championship prior to S99

PRIOR to their improbable National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 99 title reign, the San Beda University Red Lions have received all kinds of slanders including their inability to win championships minus an import.

After all, the Benedictine school’s last championship came in 2018 when it still had Cameroonian Donald Tankoua, or two years before foreign athletes were outlawed by the grand old league.

But thanks to their most recent title reign, the cacophony of deafening criticism has been hushed now.

“Yes, there’s stuffs that came out from the media but the important thing is, our belief in each other and we know our capabilities and we have each other’s back,” said San Beda coach Yuri Escueta just moments after capping their fairy tale run with a championship-sealing 76-66 win over Mapua University at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on a glorious Sunday.

Experts also didn’t give San Beda a chance prior to the season after underwhelming performances the last two years when they failed to make the finals for the first time after 14 straight championship appearances.

It didn’t take long for the Lions to regain their old winning touch after coming through a performance for the ages.

From being almost eliminated from the Final Four after a shaky second-round start, the Red Lions persevered and won knockout games after knockout games to make it to the semifinals where they slew fancied Lyceum of the Philippines University to make it to the finals where they came back from a Game One loss to snatch the crown from Mapua University.

“We joined the D-League, we went to Malaysia, we lost all games. We went to Davao and we couldn’t even beat the team’s there,” said Mr. Escueta. “But these players, they said to themselves we have to be resilient.”

Manny V. Pangilinan, San Beda’s top patron, was also all praises of the Red Lions.

“8 do-or-die games and they crossed the finish line as champions. Such a story. What a feat. Such courage and will — the Red Lions 202,” he said on his X (Twitter) account.

For San Beda manager Jude Roque, he dedicated the win to those who kept the faith.

“To those who believed, even when so many others doubted, this one’s for you,” he said. — Joey Villar