MANILA, Philippines - San Beda and San Sebastian, the two most dominant teams this season, seek to book their projected spots in the finals of the 87th NCAA seniors basketball tournament today as they take on separate Final Four rivals at the Filoil Flying V Arena.
But despite enjoying the twice-to-beat bonus in the semis, it won't be pure cakewalk for the defending champion and elims topnotcher San Beda and No. 2 San Sebastian as they are up against two dangerous rivals in No. 4 Jose Rizal and No. 3 Letran, respectively.
The Bombers have shown they are capable of pulling the rug from under the Red Lions, scoring a 76-65 reversal last Sept. 14. The same with the Knights who ended the Stags' 15-0 start with an 82-81 overtime win last Sept. 20.
"This is going to a very interesting Final Four. Letran showed that it knows how to beat San Sebastian and JRU also knows how to beat us. But we'll see," said San Beda coach Frankie Lim, whose wards come into the 2 p.m. match on a high after beating the Stags twice, 91-70 in the last day of elims, and 88-85 in the playoff for No. 1 seeding.
Those twin setbacks to the Lions, according to Stags coach Topex Robinson, could very well serve as a blessing in disguise for his players.
"It's a good thing we played San Beda because those games will prepare us for the Final Four against Letran. I think Letran will play us the way Beda did," Robinson said.
"Likewise, (Letran ace) Kevin Alas plays much like (San Beda gunner) Garvo Lanete, so defensively, we won't have a hard time making adjustment (against the Knights)," he added.
Letran vowed to move heaven and earth to extinguish SSC’s semis edge in the 4 p.m. encounter.
"It's a tall order; it's hard but it can be done," said Letran coach Louie Alas. "I told the players they (Stags) are just up by one win; if we take this game, it will all be even again. So we just have to stay focused and work hard."
San Beda and Sebastian figured in the finals of the last two seasons with the Lions copping the crown via an 18-sweep in 2010 and the Stags winning the diadem a year back.
In the lone juniors game, the Emilio Aguinaldo College Brigadiers (12-6) take on the CSB-LSGH Greenies (13-5) at 11:20 a.m. at the start of the stepladder semifinals.
The Red Cubs have earlier clinched the championship berth and thrice-to-beat advantage after posting an 18-0 sweep of the elims.