CLAIMING the first Final Four berth in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament and eventually the twice-to-beat advantage may have been easy, but San Beda is well aware that tougher times lie ahead.
The defending champion Red Lions try to keep their lofty position atop the standings as they face a dangerous Mapua side on Tuesday in the league’s second out-of-town doubleheader this season, this time at the Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales.
The league made history last July 25 when it held its two seniors’ matches outside the metro at the San Luis Sports Complex in Sta. Cruz, Laguna. The NCAA’s beach volleyball competition was also staged in Subic early this month.
Game time is at 4 p.m. with the Lions targeting their eighth straight win and 14th overall in 16 games and the Cardinals trying to hike their 6-9 win-loss card and keep their fading Final Four hopes alive.
The Lions are coming off a hard-fought 82-75 victory over Arellano last Thursday in a game where they saw the Chiefs, a team that’s also trying to stay alive in the playoff race, exploit their weak points and momentarily take the lead at the end of the third quarter.
It was only the clutch baskets of Davao-born playmaker Baser Amer that allowed the Lions to hold on to the win that dashed the Chiefs’ semifinal hopes.
The Lions expect another tough battle as they face a Cardinals crew that is expected to go all-out in what could be its last stand for a semifinal spot.
“The difficulties are mounting every game,” Lions coach Ronnie Magsanoc said.
Amer, who fired 11 of his 13 points in the final quarter against the Chiefs, will again be counted on to run the Lions’ offense, while veterans Jake Pascual and Rome dela Rosa are expected to be Amer’s beneficiaries.
The Cardinals nipped University of Perpetual Help, 74-71, last week in a game that the Altas put under protest due to the officials’ alleged questionable calls.
Mapu is hoping Jonathan Banal would duplicate his career performance against the Altas last September 17 when he pumped in four triples and made all his eight charities on his way to a 21-point effort, including 15 in the second half.
The Altas, whose protest was junked by commissioner Joe Lipa and the management committee, try to move on as they take on cellar-dwelling Lyceum in the second game two hours later.
It’s a must-win game for Perpetual, which is in fourth spot with a 9-6 slate, if it wants to clinch its first semifinal appearance since 2004. Its final two games of the season will be against San Sebastian and San Beda.