Nip-and-tuck NCAA Final 4 duels unfold
MANILA, Philippines — It’s a Final Four that’s too close to call.
With protagonists owning a win over each other in the elimination round, San Beda, Arellano U, Jose Rizal U and Perpetual Help brace for nothing less than a dogfight as the 90th NCAA basketball tournament semifinals get going Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Both the Red Lions and the Chiefs hold a twice-to-beat edge against the Heavy Bombers and the Altas, respectively, as an incentive for finishing 1-2 in the elimination round.
But that’s about the only edge the Lions and the Chiefs have as they go up against equally dangerous foes who have accounted for a win each against them.
The deciding games, if necessary, will be held on Friday, also at MOA Arena.
“It’s going to be a tough matchup for us,” said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez, who is looking to steer the Lions to an eighth title in nine years and a fifth straight since 2010. “We will be up against a well-coached, talented team.”
The Altas are in the Final Four for the third straight season with the last two years ending in heartbreak at the hands of the Lions, and coach Aric del Rosario hopes the trend ends this year.
“It’s been painful to lose to San Beda in the Final Four the last two seasons,” said the multititled Del Rosario. “But our team has matured.”
San Beda prevailed in the first round duel, 77-75, before Perpetual Help avenged the loss in the second, 76-75.
The Chiefs are hoping to make the most out of their first Final Four appearance since joining the league in 2009.
And while they lost to the Lions in the playoff for the No. 1 seed, Arellano coach Jerry Codiñera is hardly bothered.
“We will be better in the Final Four,” said Codiñera.
Arellano avenged a 98-99 triple overtime loss to JRU with a 75-69 trouncing in their next meeting last Sept. 12.
JRU, in contrast, has gotten this far because of its ability to constrict opponents with its defense.
“There’s really no choice for us but to stop their running game,” said coach Vergel Meneses.
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