Defending champion San Beda College and Letran College gun for slots in the finals when they face separate opponents in the Final Four battle of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 91 men’s basketball tournament today at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Red Lions, who are on the hunt for their sixth straight title in the country’s oldest collegiate league, will battle the Jose Rizal University (JRU) Heavy Bombers in the second game at 4:00 p.m. San Beda claimed the top spot of Final Four after beating Letran 73-68 last week. The Red Lions are also holding a twice-to-beat edge going into the Final Four fray.
“We are going to treat this game against JRU a do-or-die situation. We can’t relax against them,” San Beda coach Jamike Jarin told The Manila Times in a phone interview. “We defeated them twice in the elimination round but it doesn’t count now.”
San Beda’s Ola Adeogun, Baser Amer, Arthur Dela Cruz, Javee Mocon, Pierre Tankooua, Ryusei Koga and Roldan Sara, among others, are expected to lead the Red Lions’ campaign to capture their 20th overall senior title.
The Knights, also armed with a twice-to-beat advantage and no.2 in the Final Four, will meet the Mapua Cardinals under the tutelage of coach Atoy Co in the first game at 2:00 p.m.
Letran is expected to rely on the prowess of Mark Cruz, Rey Nam¬batac and Kevin Racal, in battling the Red Lions.
Despite losing the top spot to San Beda last week, Letran’s coach Aldin Ayo stays optimistic of his team’s chances in the Final Four.
But the Cardinals, who eliminated the Arellano University Chiefs in the Final Four race, are bent on giving the Knights their toughest challenge and force a sudden-death game.
Mapua only lost once in the second round of the elimination because of the impressive performance of Nigerian center Allwell Oraeme, pro-bound Josan Nimes, Carlos Isit, Darell Menina and Mark Brana.
They defeated JRU last week to bag the No. 3 spot in the Final Four.
The No. 4 Heavy Bombers are also expected to give the Red Lions trouble to forge a do-or-die game in the Final Four. John Pontejos, Bernabe Teodoro, Abdul Poutouchi and Jordan Dela Paz will lead JRU in battle.