San Beda-Mapua clash headlines NCAA Season 98 opening
MANILA, Philippines—NCAA Season 98 opens with a doubleheader headlined by a rematch between last season’s semifinalists San Beda and Mapua on Saturday at Araneta Coliseum.
First-time host Emilio Aguinaldo College and Arellano University clash in the curtain raiser at 3:30 p.m. following the opening ceremony at 11 a.m.
The Generals were originally set to face defending champion Letran but the league had to tweak the schedule after several Knights entered health and safety protocols. Letran, which will be without MVP Rhenz Abando who has taken his act to the Korean Basketball League, will instead make its debut on September 14.
“Letran, San Beda, CSB, Mapua, and San Sebastian, they all have a winning culture. Among the 10 teams, we’re the only ones without one. We’ll compete this season,” EAC head coach Oliver Bunyi said in a press conference at Novotel Manila on Monday.
The Cardinals and Red Lions tangle at 6 p.m. Mapua knocked off San Beda in the stepladder semis last May before getting swept by Letran in the finals.
“Once the NCAA comes, we will all be surprised. All of us are ready, we were all given a chance for long preparations,” said Mapua head coach Randy Alcantara.
Yuri Escueta will make his NCAA debut as head coach of San Beda, which is eyeing to reclaim its glory. The Lions, who will be led by James Kwekuteye, haven’t won the title since Season 94.
“We are hoping to return to a normal season. We look forward to a very successful season,” said NCAA Season 98 Policy Board Dr. Jose Paolo Campos of EAC.
“For the past two seasons, we have seen the resilience of our member school communities and student-athletes. As we begin Season 98, the Philippines’ first collegiate athletic competition remains steadfast in instilling values in our students: “Achieve Greatness Every Day.’ We continue to inspire everyone to do their best in everything they do, every day,” he added.