By now, you’ve seen the confetti, the matching three-peat shirts, the post-game interviews of players crying while they hug their parents, the scoreboard that read a dominant 71-56 over the Lyceum Pirates. But the San Beda Red Lions, with all their intensity, have even more winning moments that happened off-camera. Here are some of their best quotes from their NCAA Season 94 championship.
“We deserved to win Game 1, and we deserve to win this championship.” –Coach Boyet Fernandez before the game
In the dugout, Fernandez warned that Lyceum would be dangerous as they had something to prove. But so did the Red Lions, he told them, calling attention to online discussions that said they only won Game 1 because CJay Perez did not play for the Pirates.
“What those people should remember is we beat LPU in Round 2. CJay was there, we were able to limit his scoring, and we still won. That’s what I want us to hold on to today,” Fernandez said. “Play the way we did in that game. Show them that we deserve this.”
“San Beda taught me patience.” —Javee Mocon during warmup
“Eight years na ba talaga?” Mocon said in between shots. Coaches say that when he was a Red Cub, Mocon wasn’t the kid with the most natural talent, but he did have the best work ethic. “In one word, I’d say San Beda taught me patience. Lahat ng magagaling ngayon, dumaan sa Team B or nagtagal sa bench,” he recalled. “Hindi siya agad-agad.”
It’s that patience, Mocon says, that will serve as his anchor as he aims for a PBA career. Unlike Bolick, who is projected to be a top draft pick, Mocon faces the challenge of being undersized to keep playing four in the pros. “I know I’m small to play the same position, but I’m willing to adjust. If they want me to play guard, or even point guard, I’ll do it,” he said.
By the end of the game, Mocon would be crowned Finals MVP.
“It’s tough love, but I like it.” –James Kwekuteye on learning from Robert Bolick
Since the second round, Fil-Canadian rookie Kwekuteye has continued the tradition of Red Lion rookies and bench players showing up with confidence beyond their years. For Kwekuteye, that’s a natural result of the San Beda life: “We always have something to prove. When your school this good, you don’t want to be the one who messes it up. You can’t drop the ball.”
It also helps that to have guys like “Beast Mode” Bolick, who will come after teammates for missing easy shots or making turnovers. “It’s tough love, but I like it!” Kwekuteye laughed in the hallway going to the court. “He’s a fighter. He’s a winner, and we all learn a lot from him.”
During the game, Fernandez gave Kwekuteye some tough love as well that kicked him into high gear—”Trust your shot. Don’t be afraid to get blocked.”—while Mocon had more sentimental advice. “Four more years is a long time. It’ll get better every year,” Mocon told him.
“Hindi pa! Hindi pa ito tapos!” –The last huddle
Up by 18 points with a minute-and-a-half on the clock, the Red Lions began celebrating as Lyceum called their last timeout. Not on Fernandez’ watch, though. The coach grabbed his players, looked them straight in the eyes and yelled: “Hindi pa! Hindi pa ito tapos!” That outburst turned out to be the final straw for Fernandez’ voice, which had been straining all game. The coach would draw up their last moves as his voice cracked, wavering in sound but not in detemination.
“We finish strong. Get out there and win this.”