St. Benilde Blazers brace for San Beda Red Lions fightback in second-round encounter
Gabby Velasco and St. Benilde expect a fightback from defending champion San Beda, the team they defeated last July 28. Dante Peralta

COLLEGE of St. Benilde braces for a spirited comeback from San Beda as both teams face off anew on Saturday in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.

The Blazers were the first team to topple the mighty Red Lions this season, scoring an 83-76 victory over the defending champions last July 28.

And the Taft-based dribblers target an encore against the league-leaders in the lone seniors’ match at 2:30 p.m.

The Blazers are riding the momentum of a three-game winning streak and have won seven of their 11 games to be in the thick of the Final Four race, running third along with Perpetual Help and Jose Rizal University.

But Blazers coach Gabby Velasco is well aware it will take more than confidence to score a rare repeat against the Lions, expecting the Boyet Fernandez-handled side to brandish its old, dominant form.

“Definitely, the confidence is there. It helps the team,” Velasco said. “But if you’re not mentally prepared for them, I don’t think you can survive.”

“This is the second round,” added the eloquent mentor, who is counting on Kia draft picks Mark Romero and Paolo Taha along with Jonathan Grey, who will match up with the Lions’ own triple threat of Ola Adeogun, Art dela Cruz, and Baser Amer.

The Blazers are coming off a 74-66 win over Lyceum last Wednesday, but Velasco rued that they had only two days to prepare against the Lions, who turned back San Sebastian, 86-79, last Monday.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos