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Chiefs collide with Stags

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KENNETH Ighalo of Mapua (left) pressures JRU’s Jordan Dela Paz during Monday’s NCAA game. The Bombers won, 83-72. AUGUST DELA CRUZ

Whether Arellano has what it takes to contend in the NCAA Season 89 men’s basketball tournament will be known today when the Chiefs debut against the San Sebastian Stags at Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.

Buoyed by a string of impressive performances in the preseason, the Chiefs are slight favorites in their 4 p.m. date with the Stags,  who absorbed a 69-74 loss to the Letran Knights on opening-day last Saturday.

Perpetual Help, which made a surprising run for a Final Four berth last season, and Emilio Aguinaldo College collide in the other match at 6 p.m.

With the explosive backcourt duo of John Pinto and James Forrester returning for Arellano, coach Koy Banal expressed optimism that the Chiefs will finally nail a first Final Four appearance in their fifth season in the league.

“We’ll try to manage expectations (after the impressive preseason), but it’s always good to have that confidence going into the tournament,” said Chiefs coach Koy Banal. “One thing important for us is to bring the effort in every game.”

The Altas still have a solid core from their impressive run last season with Femi Babayemi, Nosa Omorogbe and Earl Scott Thompson in the lineup to fuel their bid.

But Aric del Rosario, on his second year as coach of the Altas, downplayed the strength of his lineup.

“It’s a big challenge for us because the lineup is not that strong,” said Del Rosario in Filipino. “Hopefully, we can use the experience of last year to improve further this year.”

The Generals are hoping to pick up from where they left off last season when they racked up six straight victories in a furious windup that still fell short of a Final Four spot.

With no significant recruit coming in, the improvement must come from within for the Generals, who have one of the most dominant big men in the league in Cameroonian Happi Noube.

San Sebastian coach Topex Robinson took encouragement at the way his rookie-laden Stags fought against the Knights, who are considered as favorites this season.

“I’m happy they’re making the most out of their chance,” Robinson said.


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