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NCAA: San Beda, St. Benilde clash for lead

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College of St. Benilde's Justin Gutang (center) is day-to-day after suffering a knee injury against Mapua. (File Photo/Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

College of St. Benilde’s Justin Gutang (center) remains day-to-day after suffering a knee injury against Mapua. (File Photo/Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

By Waylon Galvez

Games Friday
(The Arena, San Juan)

8 a.m. – San Beda vs St. Benilde (Jrs)
10 a.m. – San Sebastian vs Perpetual (Jrs)
12 n.n. – San Beda vs St. Benilde (Srs)
2 p.m. – San Sebastian vs Perpetual (Srs)
4 p.m. – Arellano vs Lyceum (Srs)
6 p.m. – Arellano vs Lyceum (Jrs)

College of St. Benilde, a team enjoying its finest start since entering the league in 1998, faces its biggest challenge yet as it plays defending champion San Beda University in the 95th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.

The two unbeaten schools currently share the top spot of the standings with identical 4-0 records, which make their 12 noon encounter a can’t-miss game early this season.

Also clashing in the other senior’s games are University of Perpetual Help and San Sebastian College at 2 p.m., followed by the 4 p.m. match of season host Arellano University and Lyceum.

Last week, the Altas snapped a three-game losing skid but will now face a determined the Stags squad that has dropped its last three assignment following a 2-0 start.

As for the Pirates, they will aim for their fourth straight win and fifth in six assignments to catch their Intramuros neighbor Letran Knights for a share of third and fourth spots.

All eyes, however, are on the SBU-CSB game.

St. Benilde improved to 4-0 and joined San Beda on top of the standings with a come-from-behind 77-72 win over San Sebastian last Tuesday. CSB coach TY Tang knows that his Blazers need to bring their A-game to be able to compete and possibly topple the four-peat seeking Red Lions.

“We are playing a champion team,” said Tang.

“We don’t have that much time to prepare following our game against San Sebastian… considering that we just played a tough game (against San Sebastian). But we will take it a game at a time. We will make the necessary adjustments for Friday’s game.”

“We hope we can play with the same intensity like what we played in our first three games. We don’t want to repeat on how we started our game (against the Stags)” he added.

The status of CSB forward Justin Gutang remains day-to-day due to a knee injury, reason why Tang will continue to rely on his other big men including Unique Naboa, rookie Chris Flores, as well as graduating players Clement Leutcheu and Yankie Haruna to lead the charge.

Calvin Oftana has showed potential for San Beda after playing under the shadows of Art dela Cruz and Javee Mocon in the past few seasons, proving that the Lions is not only building around the backcourt duo of Evan Nelle and Fil-Canadian James Canlas-Kwekuteye and big man Donald Tankoua.

The Red Lions are also fresh from a week-long break after scoring a convincing victory over the Stags (73-59), and coach Boyet Fernandez is definitely not taking their opponent lightly.

“I’m happy with the way coach TY Tang is doing for CSB,” said Fernandez. “I’ve always said ever since last year that CSB will be a different team. TY came from a good system in college. He came from a very good system in the PBA.”

“He is three years at the helm and look at where CSB now, they’re playing well, and facing CSB’s going to be a tough one,” added Fernandez.

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