Cardinals, Chiefs in do-or-die encounter for remaining berth in NCAA Final Four
 
Arellano and Mapua meet for the last time this season with no less than a berth in the NCAA Final Four at stake. Jerome Ascano

BITTER rivals San Beda and Letran battle it out today for the No. 1 seeding while Mapua and Arellano clash for the fourth and last Final Four slot in a crucial doubleheader of the 91st NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.

The Knights ousted the Perpetual Help Altas, 93-64, over the weekend to arrange their much-awaited 4 p.m. encounter with the five-time defending champion Red Lions.

Both the Knights and Lions hold identical 13-5 (win-loss) records, with the winner clinching the top seed going to the semis.

The Cardinals and the Chiefs meanwhile, face off at 2 p.m., with the survivor booking the last slot to the Final Four.

The winner between Mapua and Arellano will then meet Jose Rizal University on Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena to determine the no. 3 seed team.

The Heavy Bombers, Cardinals, and Chiefs ended up in a three-way tie at 12-6 at the end of the eliminations. Jose Rizal though, had the highest quotient among the three with +20, giving the school an outright semis berth, while leaving Mapua and Arellano to fight each other out for the remaining Final Four slot.

Letran and San Beda split their first two encounters this season. The Knights won their first meeting, 93-80, last July 16, before the Red Lions evened things up last week, 77-73.

San Beda has ended up as the top seed in the last nine years and never lost its previous three playoff games for the no. 1 spot against Arellano (97-69), San Sebastian four years ago (88-85), and also against San Sebastian six seasons back (71-65).

The Knights, in contrast, are gunning to finish at No. 1 for the first time since accomplishing the feat 10 years ago, the same year they won their last championship at the expense of  Philippine Christian University.

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"We will fight them, kahit tumbang preso o patintero pa yan,” said Letran coach Aldin Ayo.

The Cardinals meanwhile, are eyeing a return trip to the Final Four since last making deep to the playoffs five years ago.

In juniors' play, Lyceum of the Philippines and La Salle-Greenhills  collide at 12 noon for the last spot to the Final Four.

The winner will advance to the stepladder semifinals to tackle No. 3 team Arellano, with the winner battling No. 2 seed Mapua for the right to face unbeaten defending champion San Beda in the finals.

The Red Cubs earned a thrice-to-beat edge in the title series after an 18-game sweep of the elimination round.

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