ARELLANO braces for a San Beda squad aching to unleash the brunt of its anger following a stunning defeat when they collide on Thursday in the main game of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
In their toughest test so far after being tagged as preseason favorites, the Chiefs take the court at 6 p.m. against the three-time defending champion Red Lions, who are coming off a shocking 70-66 decision to lowly Lyceum last week.
Both teams have similar 1-1 (win-loss) cards and are tied with Jose Rizal University, Mapua, and Lyceum in the 10-team standings.
“They are coming from a loss so we are anticipating them to come out really strong. We just need to match their intensity,” said Chiefs coach Koy Banal, whose team accomplished what San Beda couldn’t as it beat Lyceum, 68-60, last Saturday.
The Chiefs can draw extra motivation from their ill-fated first game against the Lions last season when they surrendered an 81-71 decision to a depleted San Beda side that was missing nine key players due to suspension and was forced to lean on an unheralded group of guys that went on to be called the “Super Six”.
The Chiefs seemed to have figured out the Lions after scoring a 67-66 win in the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup in the summer.
Lions coach Boyet Fernandez was “alarmed” over his team’s performance in its first two games, where the Lions could have gone winless if not for Art dela Cruz’s alley-oop finish in their opening game against College of St. Benilde, 71-70.
But the veteran mentor said the Lions have been coping well with the loss against the Pirates and assured of his players’ commitment of trying to continue the school’s winning tradition.
“We are on the same page of achieving a four-peat. We all know that this is a very difficult task this season, but we are all committed as a team to really work hard every day to achieve our goal,” said Fernandez, who will continue to lean on Dela Cruz, Davaoeño playmaker Baser Amer, and Nigerian slotman Ola Adeogun.
The Chiefs, who boast one of the league’s deepest rosters, have an array of dependable players they can turn to in their roster.
With stars Nard Pinto and Filipino-Canadian swingman James Forrester still pale shadows of their true worth, it was rookie guard Jiovani Jalalon who came to the fore against the Pirates.