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    St. Benilde Blazers, Letran Knights try to boost Final Four bids as they face separate foes

    Sep 2, 2014

    COLLEGE of St. Benilde tries to stay in the thick of the Final Four race in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament as it tangles with San Sebastian on Wednesday at The Arena in San Juan.

    The Blazers are having their most successful season in years and they hope to get past the elimination round for the first time in more than a decade — they have not made the playoffs since 2002.

    But the race to the semifinals is heating up and every loss is beginning to be costly.

    A 54-78 defeat at the hands of defending champion San Beda has snapped a three-game winning streak and pegged the Blazers back a little. Despite toting a win-loss record above .500 of 7-5, they are just running fifth in the 10-team standings and a game behind Perpetual Help Jose Rizal University, teams sharing third spot with an 8-4 card.

    The Blazers, who have already won two more games than all of last season, hope to start a new streak as they battle the struggling Stags at 2 p.m.

    “We just want to see how far we can go,” said Blazers coach Gabby Velasco, who will once again draw strength from his terrific trio of Mark Romero, Paolo Taha, and Jonathan Grey.

    While the Blazers are on an upward swing, the Stags are spiraling downward, having lost their last eight games to remain stuck in ninth place.

    The Stags’ struggles reached its peak last Friday when they succumbed to cellar-dwelling Mapua, 73-75 — for the second straight time.

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    Bannered by CJ Perez, Brad Guinto, and Jovit de la Cruz, the Stags just hope to get out of the slump and improve their 3-9 slate.

    Letran likewise hopes to boost its bid for a Final Four appearance as it takes on Emilio Aguinaldo College in the second game at 4 o’clock.

    The seventh-running Knights, who sport a 4-7 record, face a Generals side that’s lurking behind with a 3-8 card.

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