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NCAA: Red Lions stake unbeaten slate against Blazers

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By WAYLON GALVEZ

Games Friday (The Arena, San Juan)
12 noon – San Beda vs St. Benilde (Srs)
2 p.m. – SSC-R vs Perpetual Help (Srs)
4 p.m. – Arellano vs Lyceum (Srs)
6 p.m. – Arellano vs Lyceum (Jrs)

San Beda University guard James Kwekuteye-Canlas, middle, is among the players expected to step up as the Red Lions play the College of St. Benilde Blazers in the 95th NCAA men's basketball tournament Friday at The Arena in San Juan. (NCAA Photo)

San Beda’s James Kwekuteye-Canlas, center, challenges the defense of the Lyceum Pirates in NCAA Season 95 Thursday at the The Arena in San Juan. (NCAA Photo)

Despite the unbeaten record of defending three-time champion San Beda, Red Lions head coach Boyet Fernandez understands that is no reason for them to relax, knowing things will only get tougher in the 95th NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Fernandez could have given his players rest after they earned their seventh straight victory in as many games, but the Red Lions used the previous two days to practice as they prepare for the College of St. Benilde Blazers Friday at The Arena in San Juan.

“No rest for us,” said Fernandez.

“CSB is playing really well this year, so we have to treat this game – just like previous games – as a very important game for us. Yes it has been a tiring week and this is our third straight game.”

“But it’s all about managing the players (playing time) and having enough energy going to this game against CSB, which we expect to be a tough one considering the way they’re playing this season,” he added.

The game between San Beda and St. Benilde is set at 12 noon, before the 2 p.m. match of San Sebastian College-Recoletos and University of Perpetual Help System DALTA, while Lyceum of the Philippines University takes on season host school Arellano University at 4 p.m.

Both the Altas and the Stags are fresh from wins last Tuesday, and will be boosted as their respective coaches are back on the bench – Frankie Lim from the ‘on-leave’ status and Egay Macaraya from a one-game suspension.

But the focus is on the SBU-CSB match – an encounter originally scheduled last August 2 but was called off due to bad weather. At that time, the two teams had similar 5-0 cards.

T he Blazers have since lost to the Pirates, 74-71, while the Red Lions claimed win No. 7 at the expense of the same Pirates squad, 88-73, last Friday in a rematch of the last two NCAA Finals.

CSB coach TY Tang said that the long break gave them time to prepare for the pacesetters.

“The confidence shouldn’t go down after that loss to Lyceum. I feel we are still upbeat in the next few games. They know how tough this season will be from the very beginning,” said Tang, whose team will next face Letran and dangerous Jose Rizal University.

“We have to be focused and be on the same page. It’s tough when your players are not in sync with each other. Maturity is still a part of the things that we need to learn to win,” added Tang.

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