WHETHER College of St. Benilde can sustain its longest winning streak in more than a decade will be known on Friday when its collides with title contender Arellano in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
After starting the season with three straight losses, the Blazers have gotten their acts together, putting up a four-game winning streak — their longest since 2002 when they started the season with six straight wins. It was the same year the team last made the Final Four.
“We really want to push this streak longer,” Blazers coach Gabby Velasco said of his squad, which is in a three-way tie for third spot with University of Perpetual Help and Jose Rizal University.
But standing in their way are the Chiefs, who have emerged as a strong title contender and arguably the league’s most exciting team.
The Chiefs, which run a high-octane offense led by guards Jiovani Jalalon and Nard Pinto and big man Dioncee Holts, as well as the vastly improved Keith Agovida, are running second with a 6-2 win-loss card and are just behind defending champion San Beda by a game.
“We have to get down to business again. Arellano is a top team,” Velasco said ahead of the 4 p.m. encounter. “Hopefully ma-contain namin yung running game ng Arellano.”
The Blazers, though, are on a tear as of late, compiling one win after another, including Season 90’s biggest upset so far - an 83-76 victory over the mighty Red Lions.
“They’re on a roll,” Chiefs coach Jerry Codinera said of the Blazers, bannered by the thrilling triumvirate of Mark Romero, Paolo Taha, and Jonathan Grey. “You cannot be complacent against Benilde.”
JRU likewise tries to keep in step with the Blazers as it takes the court earlier at 2 o’clock against eighth-running Emilio Aguinaldo College, which is hoping to build on an 89-78 win over Mapua that snapped a five-game skid.