Stags, Cardinals ready to plunge into NCAA action

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San Sebastian College and Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT) are bracing up for a challenging National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 92 men’s basketball tournament beginning on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

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Newly signed Golden Stags coach Egay Macaraya said that they would take this season one game at a time. San Sebastian just lost big man Bradwyn Guinto and guard Jamil Ortuoste, who’ve already finished their playing years in the league.

“I believe there are other players who can help us in the other pool. We will prioritize winning and playing defense,” said Macaraya during a news conference on Wednesday at the MOA Arena.

“We are just going to take it one game at a time. The desire of the players [to win]is there. Most teams have improved this season and we must be ready,” he added.

Macaraya, who replaced former Golden stags guard Rodney Santos as coach, said he would not make big promises but simply assured that San Sebastian will play hard and reclaim its winning ways. The Golden Stags finished with a 6-12 win-loss record last year. San Sebastian last made it to the Final Four three years ago.

“I want to get that winning attitude back in this team before we think of anything else. I’m confident our team will fight this season,” said Macaraya.

The Golden Stags would lean this season on 6’5 wingman Michael Calisaan, Jeric Fabian, Ryan Costelo, Allyn Bulanadi, Alvin Capobres, Jayson David, Chester Serajosef and Alfren Gayosa.

San Sebastian will battle College of Saint Benilde on Sunday at The Arena in San Juan City.

Mapua, on the other hand, is also upbeat on its campaign this year. Leading the team is last season’s Rookie-Most Valuable Player Nigerian Allwell Oraeme supported by Andrew Estrella, Kenneth Magbuo, Christian Bunyag and Exeqiel Biteng.

In Season 91, the Cardinals posted a 12-6 win-loss record highlighted by their six-game win streak in the second round. They bagged the last spot in the Final Four by beating Arellano University 93-75 during the playoff round.

“We are going to fight this coming season and we’re confident of our chances,” said Co in a separate interview. “We are very excited to play this season and we’re hoping this will be the right time. If my team will play like this consistently, I guess other teams won’t take us for granted.”

The Cardinals are also eyeing to end their 24-year title drought.

“If I remember last year, nobody was focusing on us except Oraeme but when we got that win streak, they just started to feel our presence. We just have to believe in the system, just what we did last year. We worked as a team,” Co added.

Co also announced that guard John Paul Nieles would not be playing this year, “He’ll be out this coming season due to ACL [Anterior Cruciate Ligament] injury,” he said.

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