Lions gun for solo lead anew
MANILA, Philippines - San Beda seeks to stay ahead of Letran and Perpetual Help in their spirited battle for one of the top two spots and the Final Four incentive as it clashes with a dangerous St. Benilde side today in the 89th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Tied with the Knights at the helm at 10-2 (win-loss) and half a game ahead of the Altas (10-3), the Lions go for the all-important win in their 6 p.m. match with the Blazers.
But the defending three-peat champions are expected to encounter stiff resistance from the Blazers, who are also going flat-out for a victory to shore up their Final Four bid.
With a 5-7 slate, St. Benilde is in a three-way tie for fifth with Jose Rizal U and Emilio Aguinaldo College, two games behind the fourth-running San Sebastian (7-5).
St. Benilde actually blew what had appeared to be a won game against San Beda in the league’s inaugurals last June 22 when the Lions snatched a 71-70 win on an alley-oop play by Art dela Cruz and Rome dela Rosa in the dying seconds.
“We won against them by a point and St. Benilde is going to be a tough assignment for us,” said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez.
The Lions are coming off a 71-64 win over the Generals last Saturday while the Blazers are reeling from a 64-68 defeat to the Altas last week.
St. Benilde’s four-point setback to Perpetual was its biggest loss in the season following four one-point defeats and a couple of two-point losses.
While San Beda is fighting for the No. 1 spot and the twice-to-beat edge in the semis, San Sebastian is seeking to firm its place at No. 4 as it collides with an unpredictable Lyceum crew at 4 p.m.
The Stags are trying to drive a wedge between them and the other pursuers while the Pirates, the only team to beat both San Beda and Letran this season, are hoping to keep their flickering Final Four hopes alive at 4-8.
“Mathematically, we still have a chance to make it to the Final Four,” said Lyceum mentor Bonnie Tan. “But we have to win as many games as we can.”