Host San Beda squares off with struggling Mapua on Thursday, with the Red Lions out to inch closer towards reaching a Final Four berth in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.
Still on top of the 10-team heap with an 11-2 mark, the Red Lions intend to re-assert their dominance over the fourth-running Cardinals (7-5) in their 4 p.m. rematch, hoping to secure another victory that will give them at least a playoff for a semifinals berth at the end of the double-round of eliminations.
San Beda coach Jamike Jarin, however, isn’t giving his wards any chance to feel complacent, knowing Mapua intends to avenge a 74-85 setback in their initial encounter last July 28 while putting its title campaign back on track following a sorry 67-69 loss dealt by San Sebastian last week.
“We’re taking it one step at a time. We have to make the Final Four first before we think of anything,” said Jarin, whose charges are coming off a morale-boosting 83-71 victory over defending champion and archrival Letran last Friday.
Clashing in the another crucial seniors match set at 2 p.m. are Arellano U and Perpetual Help in what could be a preview of a potential Final Four clash.
The hottest team in the league with seven straight wins, the Chiefs (10-2) intend to keep their hold of the No. 2 spot and repeat over the Altas (9-3) whom they defeated 83-78 in their first-round encounter last June 26.
Arellano U’s frontline, led by athletic Lervin Flores and American center Dioncee Holts, however, is expected to have its hands full in trying to contain Perpetual Help’s prized import Bright Akhuetie who sat out in their previous encounter with a sore knee.
A bigger share of the spotlight is expected to fall on the main match, with the Red Lions eyeing to hurdle another tough test without back-up big man Junjun Bonsubre who will serve his one-game suspension for his role on the near brawl that marred their victory over the Knights.
Already without Cameroon big man Donald Tankoua who suffered a season-ending ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury nearly two weeks ago, the Red Lions are pressing big man Ben Adamos to double his efforts since he’ll be the main defender on Cardinals’ top center Allwell Oraeme, the reigning league MVP. – By Jerome Lagunzad
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