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    Stags battle Blazers as NCAA race to the Final Four heats up

    Sep 22, 2013

    SAB SEBASTIAN seeks to cement its place in the Final Four, while three other teams lurking behind the Golden Stags try to get closer on Monday when the NCAA men’s basketball tournament resumes at The Arena in San Juan.

    The Stags, who currently occupy the fourth and final playoff spot, take on College of St. Benilde at 4 p.m. before Jose Rizal University battles Arellano two hours later.

    San Sebastian is one of the league’s hottest teams, having gone undefeated in four games in the second round, the latest victory a 58-53 decision of Lyceum last Thursday.

    Stags coach Topex Robinson welcomes the return of versatile forward Leo de Vera from suspension and hopes flu-stricken star guard Jamil Ortuoste returns to give fellow standout rookie CJ Perez a much-needed boost as they gun for a ninth victory in 14 games.

    The importance of the match is not lost on Blazers coach Gabby Velasco, whose wards bowed to defending champion San Beda, 46-65, last Thursday in a game that dropped them to seventh place with a 5-8 win-loss card.

    “It’s another critical game for us if we hope to catch up or even outdo San Sebastian in the race for the Final Four,” said Velasco, who is expected once again to lean on the prolific Mark Romero, Paolo Taha, and Jonathan Grey.

    JRU and Arellano, two others teams trying to remain in the hunt for a semifinal spot, are well aware of the significance of their own matchup.

    The Heavy Bombers were once in the top-half of the standings, but a four-game skid has put them in sixth place with a 5-7 record.

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    And the defensive-oriented dribblers hope to end the tailspin when they face the eighth-running Chiefs, who at 4-9 are on the brink of elimination.

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