Pirates going after coveted spot

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF NCAA Shawn Umali of Lyceum (left) and Ladis Lepalam of Saint Benilde renew their rivalry in a pivotal NCAA game today.

Games today:
(Filoil EcoOil Centre)
12 p.m. — Perpetual vs San Sebastian
3 p.m. — Lyceum vs Saint Benilde

Lyceum of the Philippines University seeks a playoff for the second seed when it faces College of Saint Benilde today in Season 98 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament at the Filoil EcoOil Centre.

Gametime is at 3 p m. as the Pirates aim to end the elimination round by picking up their 13th win of the season.

The last time Saint Benilde, which holds an 11-4 win-loss record, and Lyceum, which has a 12-5 card, faced each other in Season 98 was on 11 September when the Blazers cruised past the Pirates, 86-69.
A lot has changed since then and both squads are aware that the complexion has changed heading into their second meeting.

Saint Benilde broke a two-decade long Final Four drought after an 83-78 victory over San Sebastian College last Tuesday.

Also assured of semis slots are San Beda University and defending champion Letran College.

Lyceum, on the other hand, entered the semifinals after three years and was able to recover from a dismal showing in Season 97 when it placed ninth.

For the Pirates, head coach Gilbert Malabanan said they will treat it as a do-or-die match.

“I think it will be a do-or-die for us because both us and Saint Benilde want to be in a better spot. Everybody wants to win,” said Malabanan, who will lean on Enoch Valdez, Omar Larupay and Mac Guadaña in his squad.

“Whoever wants it more gets it on Friday.”

As for the Blazers, head coach Charles Tiu knows Lyceum can’t be taken lightly.

CJ Flores and Mark Sangco will return to the court for Saint Benilde after their two-game suspension from last Tuesday’s altercation between Jose Rizal University that was infamously led by John Amores.

“It will be a challenge because they’re a Final Four contender. They can slip into the top two if they can beat us,” said Tiu, who has the likes of Will Gozum, Migs Oczon and Jimboy Pasturan at his disposal.

“They really exceeded expectations, even mine to be honest. I hope we are ready.”

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