Well-rested Lions tangle with CardinalsBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
SAN BEDA hopes to come out strong from a two-week break as the defending champion Red Lions battle the struggling Mapua Cardinals today in the 88th NCAA basketball tournament at Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
The Lions, boosted by the return of center Ola Adeogun, target their fifth win in six outings in the 6 p.m. battle against a Mapua team reeling from five straight losses.
A Letran squad slowly but surely regaining sharp form shoots for a third straight victory against skidding Lyceum in the earlier game at 4 p.m.
The Knights, who are coming off a 65-62 win over Emilio Aguinaldo College, hope to tighten their grip on fifth spot as the first round heads into the homestretch.
Letran coach Louie Alas believes there’s plenty of room for improvement for his team.
“We’re a veteran team but we must play like a mature team,” said Alas, ruing his team’s inability to finish off the Generals earlier in their showdown.
The Knights showed flashes of their defensive strength, silencing the Generals during an eight-minute stretch while scoring 22 points.
Kevin Alas is still the Knights’ heart and soul, averaging just a shade over 20 points a game, but coach Louie Alas is still hoping for more production from big men Jonathan Belorio and Jam Cortes following the continued absence of Raymund Almazan.
San Beda which hasn’t played since the 81-65 drubbing of Emilio Aguinaldo College last July 19, actually begins a tough four-game grind in nine days that will include matches against leaders San Sebastian and Jose Rizal U.
Before the finals rematch against the Stags though, the Lions will need to deal with the dangerous Cardinals, who are hoping to draw an improved game from Josan Nimes.
Nimes has been struggling in their five losses, averaging just eight points and shooting 26 percent from the field. In the Cardinals’ two wins, Nimes stood out with a 21 point-norm.
Adeogun will only be playing his second game for the Lions, but judging from his debut against the Generals, he will have a huge impact in their hopes of retaining the crown. Adeogun finished with nine points and grabbed 14 boards in his debut.
Mike Parala and Kenneth Ighalo, who both average double-figures in rebounds, will have their hands full keeping the 6-foot-7 Adeogun off the blocks.
The Cardinals are also pinning their hopes on rookie Gab Banal, who shot a career-high 18 points in the 88-94 overtime loss to Perpetual Help the last time out.