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NCAA: Knights, Stags in KO stepladder playoffs

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By WAYLON GALVEZ

Games Today (Cuneta Astrodome, Pasay City)

10:00 a.m. – San Beda vs CSB-LSGH (Jrs)

1:00 p.m. – Lyceum vs San Sebastian (Jrs)

4:00 p.m. – Letran vs San Sebastian (Srs)

San Sebastian's RK Ilagan drives to the basket against Letran's Bonbon Batiller (left) and Tommy Olivario during the first round of the NCAA Season 95 at The Arena in San Juan. (Rio Deluvio)

San Sebastian’s RK Ilagan drives to the basket against Letran’s Bonbon Batiller (left) and Tommy Olivario during the first round of NCAA Season 95 at The Arena in San Juan. (Rio Deluvio)

The road to the finals will continue for one team and end for the other as the stepladder playoffs begins for Letran and San Sebastian College-Recoletos via a do-or-die in NCAA Season 95 today at the Cuneta Astrodome.

This is the second stepladder affair in the NCAA in three years after defending champion San Beda completed an 18-0 sweep of the eliminations, which gave the Red Lions an outright finals spot.

The Letran-SSC-R is set at 4 p.m. after semifinal matches in the juniors division.

Top seed San Beda Red Cubs, armed with a twice-to-beat bonus, meets College of St. Benilde-La Salle Greenhills Greenies at 10 a.m., followed by the 1 p.m. match between No. 2 Lyceum Junior Pirates, also with a twice-to-beat advantage, and No. 3 SSC-R Staglets.

The two collegiate teams earned playoff berths for finishing in the top four – Letran at No. 3 and SSC-R at No. 4.

The winner takes on No. 2 Lyceum of the Philippines University in another do-or-die on Friday to determine the second finals berth. The winner moves to the best-of-three series against San Beda.

Game 1 of the finals is set Nov. 12 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Letran and SSC-R split the head-to-head in the eliminations.

The Stags came through with a 102-101 win in overtime in a first round duel that saw RK Ilagan and Allyn Bulanadi combine for 43 points – a game where coach Egay Macaraya served a one-game suspension last August 20.

However, the Knights came back with a convincing 99-82 win in the second round last Sept. 20.

The encounter saw five Knights score in double digits led by 15 points apiece from Larry Muyang and Bonbon Batilier, 12 points each from Fran Yu and Jerrick Balanza, and 11 from Jio Ambohot.

Letran coach Bonnie Tan said their win gave them the opportunity to correct their mistakes and lapses from their first round loss, and he hopes to stick with the same defensive game plan against SSC-R.

“Our focus is on defense, yun ang palagi ko naman sinasabi sa mga players ko. Depensa kami ng maganda, maganda din ang pwedeng kalabasan. That’s what we plan to do against San Sebastian,” said Tan.

“Of course nandyan si Bulanadi, Ilagan… maraming threat sa kanila. Pero kung malilimitahan namin yung top scorers nila, I think we have a chance,” added Tan, whose team allowed Bulanadi to score 20 points but held Ilagan to eight points in their second round match up.

On the other hand, Macaraya said it’s going to be a team effort for them to beat Letran.

Though he missed their first round encounter, Macaraya pointed to the determination of his players in beating Letran. Aside from missing their head coach, the Stags defeated the Knights despite the exit of six players due to foul troubles in the fourth quarter and OT period.

 

“Kung magtulungan walang imposible. Nagawa naming talunin ang Letran sa ganung sitwasyon. So malaki ang tiwala ko sa mga players na kaya namin na manalo in this do-or-die game,” said Macaraya.

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