Fancied Stags gun for share of lead
San Sebastian has become a hot topic in the Final Four conversation this early in Season 95 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
“Yes, our team has been regularly mentioned as one of the teams that can make it to the Final Four,” said San Sebastian coach Egay Macaraya after the Stags lived up to the preseason hype by demolishing the Jose Rizal Heavy Bombers, 82-51, at the start of their campaign last week.
With explosive guard RK Ilagan ready to shoulder much of the offensive load, the Stags will prove that runaway victory was no lucky break against the Mapua Cardinals Tuesday at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
“I guess the players are challenged after hearing those pretournament predictions. They have responded well,” said Macaraya.
Allyn Bulunadi, the other half of San Sebastian’s fearsome offensive duo, is still nursing a dislocated shoulder that limited his mobility against the Bombers.
But Bulunadi’s shortcomings won’t hamper the semifinal quest of the Stags, who also expect major contributions from forward Alvin Capobres and Kenneth Villapando to complement Ilagan.
“We don’t want to focus our offense on RK as much as possible. We can become a better team when everybody contributes,” said Macaraya.
The Stags are aiming for a share of the lead with the defending champion San Beda Red Lions as they shoot for a second straight win.
College of St. Benilde and Perpetual will have the same objective when they tangle after the San Sebastian-Mapua tussle at 2 p.m.
Cerebral guard Edgar Charcos acknowledged the fact that he cannot do it alone after the Altas barely survived against Cardinals, 80-78, a reality check now that last year’s MVP Prince Eze is no longer around.
“We have to fill the void left by Prince. Everybody should do his part for us to play as a team,” said Charcos, who keyed that win over the Cardinals.
For the Blazers, consistency became the issue for coach TY Tang after they squandered a huge lead near the stretch before they salvaged a 69-66 win through lucky breaks.
“Hopefully, we can learn from it and work on getting better by the day,” said Tang, who will rely on Justin Gutang and Jimboy Pasturan in the absence of injured starters Clement Leutcheu and Yankie Haruna.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.